Georgia attorney general race features incumbent vs. Trump hopeful in GOP fight

Two Republicans and two Democrats are running in primaries for attorney general. From left, Republicans Chris Carr, the incumbent, and John Gordon; Democrats Jen Jordan and Christian Wise Smith. Submitted photos.

Credit: Maya T. Prabhu

Combined ShapeCaption
Two Republicans and two Democrats are running in primaries for attorney general. From left, Republicans Chris Carr, the incumbent, and John Gordon; Democrats Jen Jordan and Christian Wise Smith. Submitted photos.

Credit: Maya T. Prabhu

Credit: Maya T. Prabhu

State Attorney General Chris Carr faces a Donald Trump-backed challenger in the May 24 Republican primary, while two Democratic lawyers are vying to take on the winner in November.

Carr, a Republican from Dunwoody, is seeking to win his second full term as attorney general. He was appointed in 2016 by then-Gov. Nathan Deal and won his first full term in 2018.

Carr is being challenged in the Republican primary by attorney John Gordon, who quickly picked up Trump’s endorsement after entering the race. The former president has targeted Carr for being unwilling to help overturn the results of the 2020 election in Georgia. Trump narrowly lost the state to Democrat Joe Biden.

The attorney general is tasked with being the legal adviser for the executive branch of state government, providing legal opinions, representing the state in court and prosecuting public corruption.

On the Democratic side, Jen Jordan, a state senator, and Christian Wise Smith, a former assistant district attorney for Fulton County, will face off in the party’s primary.

The winner of the Republican and Democratic primaries will be joined by Libertarian candidate Martin Cowen in November’s general election.

After six years in office, Carr, a onetime aide to Republican U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, said there’s more work for him to do.

“I feel like we’ve got a great record of protecting lives, protecting livelihoods and protecting liberty,” Carr said, offering a slight twist on the “lives and livelihoods” political talking point often used by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp.

While in office, Carr has focused on tackling human trafficking, street gangs and the opioid addiction crisis. He’s also filed or joined several suits opposing Democratic presidents over national policies.

Many of the lawsuits Carr has joined on Georgia’s behalf involve Republican voting base issues such as his challenge to the Biden administration’s executive order banning discrimination against transgender students and staff as well as his challenge to vaccine mandates.

Carr’s reluctance to help Trump get the 2020 election results overturned spurred Gordon to enter the race. Gordon said he’s concerned that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump.

There has been no legitimate evidence found of widespread voting fraud in Georgia. Three ballot counts have confirmed Trump’s defeat to Biden, and multiple investigations by bipartisan election officials have repeatedly vouched for the results.

Gordon renewed his expired law license last year to help Trump’s failed legal challenge.

“It gave me a front-row seat,” he said. “I have seen the evidence, I’ve spoken with the witnesses, I’ve watched the videotapes, I’ve reviewed the information developed by our forensic accountant and have also learned about the massive efforts of ballot harvesting.”

If elected, he said he would work to make sure there is no fraud in elections. Republicans who run the state’s election system say there hasn’t been any of note.

Carr’s focus on suing the Democratic administrations is part of why Jordan said she got into the race, saying Carr has focused on pushing partisan politics instead of prioritizing Georgians.

“I thought that the work wasn’t getting done in terms of the people of Georgia being adequately represented, and it felt like the Department of Law has been used to push partisanship or partisan policies rather than actually prioritizing the people of this state,” she said.

Carr said the suits he’s joined on behalf of the state were meant to protect Georgians from federal overreach.

Jordan said, if elected, she would focus on creating a voting rights division in the attorney general’s office. She said the state has worked on making it harder to vote instead of ensuring every Georgian has easy access to the ballot box.

“I’ve been practicing law for over 20 years successfully and represented individuals when they needed it the most, when the chips were really down,” said Jordan, a trial attorney who was elected to the state Senate in 2017. “I’ve done the work from a private perspective, and I’ve won the races from a political perspective. And I think I’m really the person in best position, ultimately, to beat Chris Carr in November. And that is really what this whole thing is about.”

Smith said he’s running because the criminal justice system is “profoundly unjust.” Smith said he wants to work on overhauling the system to make sure the laws are applied equally to all Georgians.

“I want to make the justice system here in Georgia truly reflect and truly represent justice for all,” Smith said. “I plan on really working with the district attorneys throughout the state to make sure we start to reshift our priorities in the justice system and prioritize diversion programs.”

Smith worked as an Atlanta city solicitor and then as a member of the Fulton County district attorney’s office before founding the National Social Justice Alliance, a nonprofit organization that works with prosecutors with a goal of ending police brutality. In 2020, he ran for Fulton County district attorney, finishing third in the three-way primary.

“I‘m the only candidate in this race who has practiced in both areas of the law,” he said.

As of Jan. 30, the most recent campaign filing deadline, Carr was leading in fundraising, reporting $2.4 million in campaign donations. Jordan reported raising $1.3 million. Gordon and Smith announced their campaigns after the January deadline and have not yet filed any fundraising information.

Carr is also getting big financial help from the Washington-based Republican Attorneys General Association, which also backed him in 2018.

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