Oct 17, 2022 - Politics & Policy

What's going on in the Georgia attorney general race?

Photo illustration of Jen Jordan tinted blue and Chris Carr tinted purple separated by a white halftone divider.

Photo illustration: Maura Losch/Axios. Photos: Brynn Anderson/AP and Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Disney

In the race to be Georgia's next attorney general, two candidates have very different views on how to do the job. And that contrast has crystallized around the issue of abortion.

Why it matters: While it doesn't get the same attention as other races, the attorney general is the state’s top prosecutor with the power to file lawsuits on behalf of the state and to defend its laws.

  • The office of incumbent Republican Attorney General Chris Carr has been responsible for such issues as defending the state's 2019 restrictive anti-abortion law, HB 481, and winning 16 lawsuits that had been filed by former President Trump and his allies over the 2020 election.

What's happening: Carr, who was first appointed to the role in 2016, is seeking re-election in a race against attorney and Democratic state Sen. Jen Jordan.

  • Jordan was a vocal opponent to HB 481 in the legislature and has leaned into the issue on the campaign trail. She says she would not defend it if elected.

State of play: Jordan told Axios she believes the law "runs afoul of the Georgia Constitution" and its right to privacy. The attorney general, she said, has "a higher duty to make sure that people's constitutional rights — that the Constitution — is upheld before any law."

  • "The attorney general is supposed to be independent, independent of the governor, independent of the General Assembly," she said.

Of note: Jordan said after getting so many questions, she's been openly talking about the law's possible legal ramifications, especially its "personhood" clause, which grants full citizenship rights to an embryo.

What if, she suggested a business offers travel benefits to employees seeking abortions out of state? Will they be liable in a "conspiracy with my employees to commit homicide?" she said. "That's a problem."

  • "There are some serious legal issues with this law that are going to end up not only impacting people but end up hurting people," she told Axios.

The other side: Carr called this a "dereliction of duty" in an interview with Axios. The job, he said, is to uphold the laws and the constitution and “represent the interests of the people in our state. It is not our job to make the law or to interpret the law,” he told Axios. That includes, he said, any hypothetical interpretations.

  • “It's OK to disagree with the law of the state of Georgia or the United States. You go to Congress. In Georgia, you run for the legislature. Or in her case, you don't quit,” he said.

What they're saying: Former Republican Attorney General Sam Olens told Axios he respects both candidates, but said it worries him that an attorney general might be "making judicial decisions rather than an executive branch."

  • "Once the state Supreme Court or the U.S. Supreme Court rules that way … then the attorney general should follow the law. But the attorney general him or herself alone doesn't stand in the place of a judge to make those decisions," he said.

Yes, but: Other constitutional law experts have said Jordan's opinion has merit.

The bottom line: Jordan and Carr will continue making their cases to voters in the election’s final weeks with hefty coffers for down-ballot candidates. She reported $1.4 million in her campaign account this month. He reported $1.1 million.

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