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Ahead of S.C. debate, Carr slams ‘lawless’ Democratic 2020 hopefuls

Chris Carr addresses reporters during a press conference. (DAVID BARNES / DAVID.BARNES@AJC.COM)
Chris Carr addresses reporters during a press conference. (DAVID BARNES / DAVID.BARNES@AJC.COM)

CHARLESTON, S.C. – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders got a taste of what's likely to come at Tuesday's debate as he was peppered with slings and arrows from Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr and other Republican officials ahead of the showdown.

The Georgia Republican took centerstage at an event that organizers said would expose the “lawless liberal agenda” of Democratic White House hopefuls and capture the attention of the droves of reporters in town for the debate.

Carr joined the top law enforcement officials in Arkansas and South Carolina to batter Sanders, who cemented himself as the Democratic front-runner after routing his rivals in Saturday’s Nevada caucus.

He warned that Sanders’ liberal policies were a “slippery slope” that could threaten First Amendment rights and capitalist principles. And he said Sanders’ platform, which includes a promise of government-run healthcare, should “really terrify folks.”

“Folks need to go back and look at history and what socialism truly means,” said Carr. “My grandparents would be mystified by the conversation we’re having, and I know my parents are.”

Sanders and former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg will be the focus of attacks at Tuesday’s debate in Charleston, the last before South Carolinians vote in Saturday’s primary and Democrats in 14 Super Tuesday states cast ballots on March 3.

>>More: In Georgia Senate race, a new GOP target: Bernie Sanders

>>More: Showdown: What to watch at tonight's Democratic debate in Charleston

Carr’s appearance helps elevate his national profile as a surrogate for President Donald Trump.

A former top aide to U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, Carr was Gov. Nathan Deal’s economic development commissioner before he was tapped as the state’s Attorney General. He defeated Democrat Charlie Bailey in 2018 to win a four-year term.

His focus on Sanders echoes other Georgia Republicans who have tried to make the Vermont senator the face of the Democratic Party. U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler earlier Tuesday unveiled a new ad that pledged she would "stop Bernie Sanders' socialism."

Some anxious Democrats worry that Sanders’ rise could limit the party’s chances of retaking the U.S. Senate and doom re-election hopes for down-ticket candidates in competitive races.

Sanders’ comments on “60 Minutes” in which he appeared to praise Cuban dictator Fidel Castro helped fueled those fears, and provided more fodder for Republican critics.

Carr invoked his remarks on Tuesday when asked about the judicial philosophy of the 2020 hopefuls, saying that Sanders is likely looking for others who align with his views as a “valid socialist.”

“Or maybe he’ll look to somebody he apparently thinks highly of in Fidel Castro – a guy that absolutely dismissed the rule of law, jailed those that disagreed with him, but apparently they had an outstanding literacy program.”

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