Ideological attorneys Carr, Jordan litigate in 2022 Georgia attorney general election

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Typically, a down-ballot election race such as the attorney general attracts scant attention.

Heading into the 2022 midterms on Nov. 8, the role of the state's top lawyer has taken on greater emphasis with battles over COVID-19 mandates, abortion rights, gun rights and voting rights pitting states against the federal government and, in some cases, the will of citizens against state officials.

Incumbent Attorney General Chris Carr, a Republican who has held the seat since 2016, has carried the water for the state's conservative leadership on the base's bread-and-butter issues. Most notably he's defended the state's restricting of abortion rights, known as the "Heartbeat Law," and a series of voting revisions in 2020 and in 2021 that tightened requirements for absentee ballots, among other measures.

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In the wake of Georgia's purpling in the 2020 presidential election, Carr drew the ire of former President Donald Trump because Carr was unwilling to help overturn the results of the election in Georgia. Trump endorsed one of Carr's 2022 primary opponents even

With Democratic nominee Jen Jordan, a state senator representing the Atlanta area, as Carr's ideological opposite, the attorney general's race may very well come down to the candidates' stances on reproductive and voting rights — which may push moderate independent voters toward the left.

As the margin between staunchly Republican and stalwart Democrats in slim, those coveted swing votes can make a huge difference. Throw in Libertarian Party candidate Martin Cowen, who has made abolishing both qualified immunity and no-knock warrants part of his platform — both of which galvanize young voters — and the race for Georgia's next attorney general may be the sleeper to watch.

The Georgia attorney general is the chief legal advisor to the governor and all state agencies, boards and commissions.
The Georgia attorney general is the chief legal advisor to the governor and all state agencies, boards and commissions.

What is the attorney general's role?

In Georgia, the attorney general serves as the chief legal advisor to the governor and all state agencies, boards and commissions. The AG prosecutes public corruption cases, oversees the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, and represents the State of Georgia in civil cases before all courts and in all cases before the Supreme Court of the United States.

What happened in the primaries?

Carr handily defeated Donald Trump-backed John Gordon with 73% of the vote.

In January, Charlie Bailey withdrew from the attorney general's race to run for the Democratic Party's nominee in the lieutenant governor's contest, which set up a two-way contest between Jordan and former Fulton County Assistant District Attorney Christian Wise Smith. Jordan routed Smith with 77% of the vote.

Get prepared for early voting with Savannah Morning News' rundown of the candidates and issues appearing on the November 2022 general election ballot.

Party Picks: Chris Carr and Jen Jordan win party nominations in Georgia primary for attorney general

What do you need to know about Chris Carr?

A Dunwoody Republican, Carr was appointed to the attorney general's position in 2016 by then-Gov. Nathan Deal. He won his first full term in 2018. Prior to elected office, Carr served for six years as chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson and as commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

During his time as the state's top law dog, Carr touts that he has targeted cyber crimes, elder abuse and the opioid crisis. His office created a human trafficking division, which prosecutes both traffickers and buyers. He is creating the first gang prosecution unit to assist communities throughout the state dealing with increased gang violence.

In May 2020, three months after the shooting death of 25-year-old jogger Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, when no arrests had been made, Carr asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to look into the conduct of both the Brunswick and Waycross judicial circuits. Two days later, father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael and a neighbor, William "Roddie" Bryan, were arrested and charged with murder.

Carr has gained national attention for defending the state's early economic re-opening during the COVID-19 pandemic, and he's actively fought against federal mandates for masks and vaccines. In his role, he has led the state's defense of its sweeping changes to voting laws and the "Heartbeat Bill."

Jen Jordan is running for Georgia attorney general as a Democrat. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Jen Jordan is running for Georgia attorney general as a Democrat. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

What do you need to know about Jen Jordan?

State Sen. Jordan garnered the national spotlight and became a household name outside of her North Atlanta-area district in 2019 when she delivered a deeply personal speech against HB 481, the state's "Heartbeat Bill."

That moment made her a rising star in Democratic circles, and state party leaders encouraged former Fulton County Assistant District Attorney Bailey to withdraw from the attorney general race to run for lieutenant governor and make a place for Jordan.

As a state senator first elected in 2017, Jordan serves as chair of the Senate Special Judiciary Committee and member of the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions, Government Oversight Interstate Cooperation, Science and Technology, and Reapportionment and Redistricting committees. She has championed raising the state's minimum wage, expanding early voting in rural areas of the state, and the creation of a Georgia Family Medical Leave Act.

If elected as the state's attorney general, Jordan has vowed to establish a voting rights division in the attorney general’s office, noting the state has worked on making it harder to vote instead of easier. She also has drawn equal parts praise and derision for her vow not to defend the state's now-enacted six-week abortion ban against court challenges.

Other issues that are part of her platform: criminal justice reform through police accountability and community-driven safety strategies; strengthening clean air and clean water measures; expanding access to health care for un- and underinsured Georgians; and consumer protections against predatory lenders.

Martin Cowen, libertarian candidate for attorney general in Georgia for the 2022 election.
Martin Cowen, libertarian candidate for attorney general in Georgia for the 2022 election.

What do you need to know about Martin Cowen?

Jonesboro attorney Cowen has been practicing law in Georgia for nearly 50 years. Three years after attending his first Libertarian Party convention in 1972, he graduated from the University of Georgia Law School and has lived by the creed, "Don't hurt people. Don't take their stuff."

Cowen was appointed in 2013 as an associate probate judge for Clayton County, and he's often appeared as a write-in candidate to represent Georgia in Congress. In Cowen v. Raffensperger, Cowen, along with the Libertarian Party of Georgia and other individuals, sued the state in 2017 over its restrictive ballot access laws that limit third-party candidates for U.S. House races.

Cowen has said that "prosecuting officials for their misdeeds" is one of the most important responsibilities of the attorney general, and he believes that qualified immunity should be abolished. In terms of policing, he finds no-knock warrants "intolerable."

As attorney general, he has said he hopes to establish stations within Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport where young people can seek legal and counseling services to protect them against being trafficked.

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: GA attorney general's race: Carr, Jordan battle over abortion, voting