Since the Georgia Senate race headed to a Dec. 6 runoff, GOP nominee Herschel Walker has been plagued by revelations that he is more Texan than Georgian. It is questionable how much of the new information around his residency will matter in a state where many see him as a football god, but reporting solidifies that the Georgia football star appears to have been living near Dallas until last year.
It was widely known, even before Walker launched his Senate bid in August 2021, that the former Dallas Cowboy lived in Texas for decades. Walker registered to vote in Georgia only days ahead of his official campaign announcement. But reporting from various outlets in recent days has undermined some of Walker’s previous claims, raised new doubts about how recently he began living in Georgia, and showed that he still had substantial ties to a Texas address.
Legal experts generally agree that revelations around his residency will not create legal troubles for Walker — just political ones.
“There are no legal implications for him as a candidate,” said Rick Hasen, a professor of law at UCLA and director of the Safeguarding Democracy Project.
The Georgia House Was Generating Rental Income
Walker claims he maintained a residence in Atlanta for almost “17 years.” But new reporting from the Daily Beast shows that the Georgia home, owned by Walker’s wife, Julie Blanchard, was generating rental income as late as 2020 and 2021.
Financial disclosure forms show Blanchard collected thousands of dollars in rental income for her Georgia residence, according to the Daily Beast report. The rental income earned by the Walkers suggests they may not have been living in Georgia before his campaign.
As Hasen explained, a federal office holder does not have to establish residency until elected to office so this wouldn’t create any legal issues for Walker.
Georgia law has more than a dozen requirements that aspiring candidates need to meet to run for office – one of them being whether or not the person had an intent to come to Georgia and an intent to stay indefinitely, according to Anthony Michael Kreis, a law professor at Georgia State University.
“The threshold for that intent is fairly low,” Kreis said. “And so I think it’s a really difficult thing to prove that somebody didn’t intend to come to Georgia and stay here indefinitely. So in terms of legal residency requirements, the idea that there is any case here is pretty weak.”
Hasen added that by running for office Walker does seem to show an interest in living in Georgia.
Walker Has Been Getting A Tax Break Intended Only For A Primary Residence On His Texas Home
Last week, CNN reported that Walker filed for a homestead exemption on his Dallas, Texas residence in 2021 and 2022. To be eligible for an homestead exemption in Texas, you have to claim the property in question as your primary residence, Kreis said. The exemption saved Walker a $1,500 tax break, according to the Daily Beast, but also required him to declare his suburban Dallas home as his “principal residence.”
Under Texas law, if a homeowner moves to a different state, they can still receive the exemption only if they don’t establish principal residence elsewhere and plan to return to Texas within two years.
If Walker is intending to stay indefinitely in Georgia — as the qualifications to run for office in Georgia requires you to be — then he wouldn’t be eligible for homestead exemption in Texas, Kreis added.
So, the former football star might be in trouble in Texas. But he is most likely safe in Georgia. “It’s not likely the state would try to sanction Walker in any way unless he made a patently false statement on his qualification papers,” Bryan Sells, an election lawyer based in Georgia, said.
Walker’s Texas Address Was Used To Receive PPP Loans
The Texas address, which Walker’s wife Blanchard used on several federal forms, including campaign donations she made through June 2021, was also used to receive federal COVID loans, according to reporting by the Daily Beast. The address is connected to about $50,000 in forgivable loans to a Delaware company called Consolidated Broker Management — which Blanchard claims to be the president of. Federal loan data shows CBM collected two COVID loans through the Paycheck Protection Program — one in May 2020 for $20,832, and another in March 2021 for $29,165.
While, according to experts, there seems to be no solid legal case against Walker in Georgia, voters can still judge the former Bulldog for his late return to the state.
“Politically, that’s really up to the Georgia voters as to whether he has enough ties to the state to be a Georgia Senator,” Hasen said.