Chris Carr tells Republicans he plans to run for Georgia governor in 2026

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr has told some Republican activists and elected officials that he will run for governor in 2026 to succeed incumbent Brian Kemp, who can’t run for a third term. (Arvin Temkar /

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr has told some Republican activists and elected officials that he will run for governor in 2026 to succeed incumbent Brian Kemp, who can’t run for a third term. (Arvin Temkar /

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr has told a growing number of Republican activists and elected officials that he will run for governor in 2026 to succeed incumbent Brian Kemp, a close political ally who can’t run for a third term.

Carr has been building the foundation for a run for higher office since passing on a 2022 bid for the U.S. Senate, and he’s told friends and prospective supporters that he’s working now to line up donors and grassroots advocates long before the election.

Carr didn’t dispute that he plans to run for Georgia’s top job in 2026 but said through a spokesman that his priority is helping Republicans win next year.

“Right now, Attorney General Carr’s sole focus is on beating Joe Biden in Georgia and keeping the Republican majorities in the General Assembly,” said Heath Garrett, one of Carr’s top advisers.

Though Carr has taken the most concrete steps yet to run for governor, he’s far from the only potential candidate engaged in early maneuvering.

Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, a favorite of Donald Trump’s MAGA wing, is openly weighing a bid for the top office, and he would tap his family’s considerable financial resources should he run.

Former U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger could join the fray, particularly if Kemp challenges Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, and the race could also attract formidable political outsiders.

Democrats have their own up-in-the-air competition brewing. Stacey Abrams, who lost back-to-back races to Kemp, hasn’t ruled out a third run. U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, former state Sen. Jen Jordan and Jason Carter, the party’s 2014 nominee, also could contend for the job.

A rematch at a higher level could be in the offing for Republican Chris Carr and former Democratic state Sen. Jen Jordan. The two, who faced off last year in an electoral battle that Carr won to remain Georgia's attorney general, are both potential candidates for governor in 2026. Courtesy photos.

Credit: Maya Prabhu

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Credit: Maya Prabhu

Carr, 51, has a long track record in Georgia politics. He was a top aide to then-U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson before Gov. Nathan Deal selected him as the state’s economic development commissioner in 2013. (His wife, Joan Kirchner Carr, also later served as Isakson’s chief of staff.)

When then-Attorney General Sam Olens resigned to become Kennesaw State University’s president in 2016, Deal picked Carr to fill the vacancy, one of the most significant appointments of his two terms in office.

It was Carr’s first taste of electoral politics as a candidate, and he quickly hit the campaign trail, scaring off potential challengers on his way to a close November 2018 victory over Democrat Charlie Bailey.

In his first full term, Carr positioned himself as a tough-on-crime politician who seconded Kemp’s initiatives to crack down on gang offenders and sex traffickers. He became one of Kemp’s most loyal allies at a time when Donald Trump-driven schisms emerged within the state’s Republican Party.

As Georgia’s top lawyer, he fended off a barrage of pro-Trump lawsuits seeking to overturn the November 2020 election, joining Kemp and Raffensperger as the former president’s top targets in last year’s midterm.

Carr quashed a Trump-endorsed challenge from attorney John Gordon, who waged a far-right challenge based on lies that Trump won the election in Georgia. Carr went on to defeat Jordan in November by a comfortable margin — though one that was slightly closer than Kemp’s eight-point victory over Abrams.

A favorite of mainstream Republicans, Carr backed up Deal’s veto of “religious liberty” legislation in 2016 that triggered threats of business boycotts. He later stepped down from a national GOP group after its policy arm urged supporters to march on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, right, has been one of Gov. Brian Kemp’s most loyal allies at a time when cracks have appeared in the state Republican Party between its establishment wing and supporters of former President Donald Trump. Now, Carr is considering a 2026 run to succeed Kemp, who cannot seek a third term. (Arvin Temkar /

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

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Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

But he’s no moderate. He has defended Georgia’s conservative policies in court and on the campaign trail, including permissive firearms stances and the state’s 2021 rewrite of election laws.

He quickly asked a federal appeals court to allow Georgia’s anti-abortion law to take effect after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and is pressing the state’s top judges to preserve the restrictions.

More recently, he’s backed laws that toughen anti-gang penalties and empower the state to sanction or oust local prosecutors. And he’s an outspoken supporter of the Atlanta public safety complex that has divided some liberals.

One reason Carr is seeking to line up donors early is to build a solid financial foundation for a gubernatorial race that could shatter records set in 2022, when Kemp and Abrams combined to raise nearly $200 million.

Carr raised about $5 million for his 2022 reelection bid, the highest total ever for the down-ticket office. But in a race for governor he’ll need to rely on the well-heeled networks that helped Deal, Isakson and Kemp win — particularly because Jones, Loeffler and Raffensperger could each tap their own personal fortunes.

Republican state Rep. Will Wade, a Carr confidante, said it’s too early to have “deep discussions” on 2026. Even so, he added, Carr would be a “formidable candidate” to succeed Kemp.

“Chris has a very strong record on fighting violent criminals and a steadfast focus on fighting alongside Brian and Marty Kemp and the Georgia General Assembly against human and child trafficking,” Wade said.