Candidate for Attorney General:
Chris Carr has a defined view of his role as Georgia’s top government lawyer.
“My job as the attorney general is to be the managing partner of the law firm that is Georgia,” he said. “I also represent the executive branch of state government. When we’re in court, though, my position is to provide excellent representation for the state.”
Carr, a Republican, is seeking election to a full, four-year term, having been appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal in 2016 to fill the remaining two years of Sam Olens’ term when he stepped down to become the president of Kennesaw State University.
That Carr is not an experienced trial attorney has been a point of contention between him and his Democratic opponent, former Fulton County Assistant District Attorney Charles Bailey.
The 46-year-old Carr, who attended the University of Georgia as an undergrad and law student, worked for 11 years with Sen. Johnny Isakson, including as his chief of staff, before serving as the state’s economic development officer under Deal.
Carr previously was an attorney at the Atlanta law firm of Alston & Bird and worked with the Georgia Public Policy Foundation on state legislative issues.
“My history across the board qualifies me for the position,” Carr told the AJT. “It takes an incredible amount of experience to win the full four-year term, and I have a record that demonstrates that. People would have a great opportunity to see what I would do for Georgia.”
In public appearances, Carr has listed five priority subjects: human trafficking, elder abuse, cyber crime, opioid abuse, and gang activity.
He also views a stable legal and regulatory environment as necessary for the state to continue its economic growth.
During a debate with Bailey, sponsored by the Atlanta Press Club, Carr said that the state has hired outside counsel to assist any investigation and litigation involving opioids, while also creating a statewide task force bringing together public and private institutions on the issue. Georgia has not, however, joined other states in suing the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture and distribute the drugs.
In September, Carr announced creation of the Georgia Anti-Gang Network, an effort to increase communication between local, state and federal authorities dealing with gang activity. The Georgia Gang Investigators Association has estimated that there are 71,000 gang members and more than 1,500 suspected gang networks in the state.
Asked during the debate about “religious liberty” legislation and the gay community, Carr said, “I believe in the dignity of each human being, and my job is to uphold laws. If the laws need to be changed, that may be a possibility. Whatever laws are signed by the governor and as long as it’s not unconstitutional, I will uphold that.”
Georgia remains one of a handful of states without hate crimes legislation. “Any violence or threats of violence against religious groups, houses of worship or any individual have no place in Georgia. The Office of the Attorney General will stand with our local and federal partners to protect all Georgians from violence,” he told the AJT.
Carr supports a multi-state suit against the Affordable Care Act, arguing that because the provision that the Supreme Court cited in initially ruling the health care law constitutional has since been removed by Congress, the ACA should now be declared unconstitutional.
As of his Sept. 30 campaign finance report, Carr had raised nearly $1.87 million, spent $678,400, and reported $1.91 million in cash on hand.
Candidate for Attorney General:
Charlie Bailey, the Democratic candidate for attorney general, likes to remind audiences that he has experience as a prosecutor that the Republican incumbent, Chris Carr, does not.
Bailey cites his prosecution of gang members as senior district attorney in Fulton County as an example of why he’s more qualified than Carr, who was appointed to the post two years ago by Gov. Nathan Deal to fill the remainder of Sam Olens’ term.
“More than anything, the office is above all intended to protect people. If the people of Georgia are harmed, the attorney general goes out and gets them justice,” Bailey told the AJT. “The way that plays out with the issues important to Georgians is that right now we don’t have an attorney general working on organized crime, gang activity or human trafficking. There has not been one indictment of a gang leader or trafficker since my opponent has been in office.”
Bailey, who attended the University of Georgia as an undergrad and law student, advocates a hands-on approach.
“It’s part of the reason these things have just stayed the same,” he said. “My opponent has never been a prosecutor. He’s a nice guy, but he doesn’t know what he’s doing. He’s been a staffer and a bureaucrat, and that’s not the job at hand here. The people of Georgia need to be protected.”
Bailey said that, as attorney general, he would go after special interests, companies, even politicians if they are harming Georgians. “Whether it’s a predatory lender, a debt collector or pharmaceutical companies who have engaged in price fixing, I want to be very aggressive in curbing that conduct, and not with just slaps on the wrists as we’ve had,” he said.
He points to special interests as one of the reasons Georgia hasn’t been tougher on those groups. “We haven’t had an indictment of any corrupt officials the entire time Chris Carr has been in office,” Bailey said. “Do you think there aren’t any politicians who are misusing tax dollars or taking stances to benefit special interest groups for their own gain? I’m not here to protect those political insiders. I’m here for the people.”
Bailey pledged action on the opioid epidemic.
In a debate sponsored by the Atlanta Press Club, Bailey said that Carr had sent out a press release and held a press conference on the subject close to the election.
“He’s been in office for two years and hasn’t done anything about it,” Bailey explained. “Chris has held a total of four meetings about the opioid crisis. To date, there are no suits filed.” Bailey advocated a more aggressive stance against companies that manufacture opioids and distribute the drugs knowing their dangers.
“I would be sworn in to defend the people and the constitution,” Bailey said. “That includes everyone.”
Bailey cited Georgia’s lack of hate crimes legislation. “It obviously hasn’t been a priority in the past. You can judge what someone cares about by what they do,” he said. “I will push for the passage of that civil rights bill, and that legislation will give the tools to people to protect them. As the top lawyer in Georgia, you have people looking to you, and you need to have an opinion about things that matter. People’s civil rights and the prevention of hate crimes matter.”
According to the Sept. 30 campaign finance report, Bailey had raised more than $747,000, spent nearly $200,000 and had cash on hand of about $547,000. Beginning in 2019, the attorney general’s annual salary will increase from $139,000 to $165,611, thanks to a bill signed by Gov. Nathan Deal.