Herschel Walker may be gunning for a U.S. Senate seat in the state of Georgia, but the state of Texas, it would seem, is never far from his thoughts. Throughout the Trump-backed Republican’s fraught campaign to unseat Democratic senator Raphael Warnock—which will culminate in a runoff election on Tuesday—the scandal-plagued candidate hasn’t been able to dissociate himself from the Lone Star State, so much so that his Texas pride has been woven into his political origin story. “As I was sitting in my home in Texas, I was sitting in my home in Texas, and I was seeing what was going on in this country,” the sixty-year-old told University of Georgia College Republicans during a January campaign speech in which he detailed his motivation for seeking political office. “I was seeing what was going on in this country with how they were trying to divide people.”
“I live in Texas,” he candidly reiterated during the same speech. The admission was far from an outlier. According to a CNN tally, Walker gave at least four interviews from his home in Westlake, an affluent community nestled between Dallas and Fort Worth, after announcing his Georgia candidacy. Before declaring his Senate run, Walker conducted around twenty interviews from Texas. (The U.S. Constitution only requires that a senator to be an “inhabitant” of a state when elected.)
Walker registered to vote in Georgia last summer. In doing so, he began legally claiming a North Atlanta home owned solely by his wife as his primary residence. However, financial statements reveal that the home was being used as a rental property the same year. Meanwhile, in Texas, Walker continued to claim a homestead exemption, which gives homeowners a tax break on the value of their principal residence. By lowering his Texas tax bill by more than $1,000 last year, while also claiming Atlanta as his primary residence, Walker is potentially violating Texas tax law, which limits the exemption to a single in-state residence, according to the state comptroller’s office.
At a Tuesday news conference focused on Walker’s troubled candidacy, Democrats pounced. “Georgians need to elect someone that lives in Georgia,” said Dewey McClain, a state representative. “In other words, Herschel Walker has not been honest with Georgians about where his home is. He tried to game the system and he’s gotten caught.” Despite a flurry of stories probing Walker’s residency status, as well as calls for Georgia investigators to take action, the candidate has yet to respond publicly to allegations that he’s benefiting from a property-tax break to which he is not entitled.
There’s something predictably Texan about leaving the state to pursue opportunities elsewhere and then gradually realizing you’re unable to escape the gravitational pull exerted by superior brisket and tacos, warm weather and, until recently, affordability. In Walker’s case, however, it’s not entirely clear that the former Dallas Cowboys running back—who has been called “a pathological liar” by at least one former girlfriend—officially left in the first place, physically or psychically. Perhaps a peek inside Walker’s four-bedroom home could help explain why it’s so hard for the Heisman Trophy winner to sever his Texas ties.
Walker purchased the four-bedroom, four-bathroom home, which was built in 2005 and sits on a one-acre parcel of land, in January 2011 for an undisclosed figure. (Eight months earlier, the property was listed at $3,175,000, according to Zillow.) Today the home, which is located in the gated golf-course community known as Vaquero (Spanish for “cowboy”), is worth an estimated $4.1 million—although it’s not currently for sale.
Dominated by wealthy families and behemoth homes, Vaquero covers 525 acres of a former ranch once owned by Nelson Bunker Hunt, the billionaire Texas oilman and eccentric whose brother reportedly inspired the character J. R. Ewing in the legendary TV series Dallas. “The secluded property features rolling hills, a newly renovated and expanded 42,000 square-foot Club House and golf course designed by Tom Fazio” (a famed golf course designer, in case you’re wondering), the community’s website notes. To gain access to the club, a golf membership will cost you $150,000, while a mere “social membership” will run you $40,000, according to a 2018 fee breakdown available online. There are also annual dues for each membership category, which range from just under $10,000 to nearly $20,000 (by comparison, the current in-state tuition at the University of Texas is around $12,000 per year).
Realtors say the exclusive neighborhood of custom homes—which refers to itself as providing “the ultimate lifestyle experience”—has been designed to appeal to a suburban architectural palate, one that appears intent on importing sun-soaked vacation destinations to the windswept plains of North Texas, with models ranging from “Santa Barbara-style” and “Texas Hill Country” to “Mediterranean” and “contemporary.” “Unlike most gated communities where guards are window dressing, security is taken seriously,” a D Magazine neighborhood spotlight pointed out back in 2007, when the community was in its formative stage. “No one gets through without approval.”
On Zillow, Walker’s pad is referred to as a “spectacular Italian Estate.” Lathered in shades of beige and brown, with exaggerated columns, towering ceilings, marble countertops, and a curling entry staircase, the home brings to mind the sprawling Southern California abodes turned into sets for reality television dramas such as ABC’s The Bachelor. Walker’s two-story home also includes wood-beamed ceilings and a movie theater, as well as a mud room, a game room, an outdoor kitchen, and “a roman-style salt water pool” surrounded by “spectacular terrace gardens.” Somewhere amid the swirl of spalike amenities and aspiring D-listers competing for roses, the master suite “overlooks a dramatic outdoor stone waterfall that spills into a lily pond,” as Zillow poetically notes.
Though it’s located a short drive from the Southlake Town Square shopping district and DFW International Airport, the primary perk of living in Walker’s gated community is access to Vaquero’s private club. Along with the golf course, the club features workout facilities, a spa, and personal concierges who arrange everything from car washing and rides to the airport to grocery deliveries and laundry pickups. Perhaps that explains why the community has attracted other celebrity NFL athletes over the years, such as former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Drew Bledsoe and Pittsburgh Steelers great and cohost of Fox NFL Sunday Terry Bradshaw. “When you become a member of the club, you gain access to a lot of neighborhood amenities including golf, tennis, pickleball, group activities, swimming, the gym, and a stocked fishing pond,” Jennifer Shindler, a real estate agent who has worked in the neighborhood for more than a decade, told CultureMap Dallas.
With such amenities at his disposal, it’s no wonder Walker has been reluctant to cut bait, even if it causes Georgia voters to question his allegiance to their state.