ATLANTA – Despite their differences, the two candidates for Georgia attorney general share one important commonalty: Both were trained at the University of Georgia law school.
Incumbent Republican Chris Carr, who graduated from UGA in 1999, touts his conservative values and his successes prosecuting gangs and human traffickers as reasons Georgians should vote for him for a second full term.
Democrat Jen Jordan, a state senator from North Atlanta and a 2001 UGA law grad, has staked her claim to the top legal job on her strong defense of abortion rights.
Jordan cemented her statewide political reputation in a fiery 2019 speech on the Senate floor opposing a Georgia law that banned abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy. She described her personal experiences with multiple miscarriages and staked her pro-choice stance on a woman’s right to privacy.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision to overturn a 1973 ruling guaranteeing a woman’s right to an abortion allowed Georgia’s “heartbeat law” to finally take effect this summer and pushed abortion to the center of this fall’s political debates.
Carr has vigorously defended the Georgia law. He says that an attorney general must uphold all state laws. Just after the Supreme Court issued its ruling on abortion, he asked a federal circuit court to allow the Georgia law to take effect.
“It’s the job of the attorney general to defend and uphold the laws of Georgia passed by the General Assembly and signed by our governor,” he said. “That’s what I do. That’s what the state constitution requires.”
But Jordan disagrees.
“I don’t think it’s constitutional,” Jordan said of the Georgia heartbeat law a few days after the Supreme Court decision. “I would not defend it because I don’t think it’s lawful.”
Jordan’s position has garnered endorsements from national pro-choice groups—and drawn incumbent Carr’s ire.
Beyond abortion, Carr touts his record prosecuting human trafficking and gangs as a top achievement.
Carr created a Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit in 2019. So far, the unit has convicted six people and indicted more than 40.
Carr also recently formed a Gang Prosecution Unit, said spokeswoman Kara Richardson. The unit currently is pursuing more than a dozen cases.
The incumbent Republican is also a strong supporter of gun rights. He joined coalitions of attorneys general calling on federal courts to overturn laws limiting magazine capacities in New Jersey and California.
Jordan says gang activity and gun violence have been on the rise during Carr’s tenure as attorney general and change is needed.
“I pledge to crack down on the illegal gun trade and work with law enforcement to tackle gun violence,” she said. “I will prioritize my efforts to combat gang crimes, and I will aggressively prosecute individuals implicated in such activity.”
A fundamental part of Carr’s legal philosophy is his opposition to what he calls “federal overreach.” His office filed five separate lawsuits against federal mask and vaccine mandates during the COVID pandemic.
“Chris is pro-vaccine personally, but he knew it was unconstitutional for the president [Biden] to turn private companies into the ‘health police’ against their employees,” his campaign website states.
Carr also opposed a Biden administration ban on oil drilling permits on federal lands and advocated for reversing the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline, claiming a ban would drive up energy costs and cause job losses.
Jordan touts her campaign against a medical sterilization facility in Cobb County that was emitting carcinogenic air pollution as one of her top achievements.
“Although [the factory] is in operation, the fight isn’t over,” she said. “It is for this reason, and more, that I am running to be the next attorney general of Georgia.”
Jordan also authored a law this year that legalized fentanyl testing strips in Georgia. The test strips can help people identify fentanyl, an often deadly opioid, to better protect themselves and minimize risk.
“This law will save lives,” she said.
For his part, Carr has led Georgia through health-care settlements with large corporations that will return money to the state. Georgia is expected to receive around $636 million as part of a national opioid settlement and around $19 million as part of a settlement with vaping company JUUL.
Carr – like other top Georgia Republicans – has been forced to steer a delicate path when it comes to the national political divisions created during the Trump presidency. He supported many Trump policies and – along with other Republican attorneys general – opposed the 2020 impeachment of the then-president.
But after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, Carr signed on to a letter to then-U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen condemning the riot.
Closer to home, Carr has defended Georgia’s voting laws.
“My office won case after case that have targeted Georgia election laws because we followed the facts, not the political rhetoric,” he said.
Jordan said she would be a strong defender of voting rights if elected the state’s top lawyer.
“I will respond swiftly to allegations of voter fraud or any claims of voter intimidation, and work to ensure every Georgian’s vote is counted,” Jordan said.
A galvanizing moment in Carr’s career came when young Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed after being accosted by three white men in February 2020 in Brunswick.
After it emerged that local district attorneys had ties to the accused murderers and had fumbled the investigation, Carr appointed Cobb County District Attorney Joyette Holmes – a Black woman – to lead the prosecution in the racially sensitive case.
Carr also asked both the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the federal Department of Justice to investigate the matter.
“The loss of Ahmaud Arbery was a tragedy that should have never occurred,” Carr said when the three white men were convicted last year.
Jordan said law enforcement reforms are needed. Her campaign website says that the “overcriminalization of drug offenses” has led to “mass incarceration.”
“As your attorney general, I will partner and work with law enforcement to strengthen police accountability mechanisms and to build community-led public safety strategies,” she said.
Martin Cowen, a Libertarian candidate, is also running for the attorney general position.
The three candidates will debate Oct. 18 as part of the Atlanta Press Club Loudermilk-Young debate series.
This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.