Democrat Bailey jumps from AG race to LG contest in Georgia

Democrat Charlie Bailey.

Credit: Courtesy photo

Credit: Courtesy photo

Democrat Charlie Bailey.

Democrat Charlie Bailey switched from the race for attorney general to the contest for lieutenant governor with a coterie of influential supporters who hope to make him the front-runner in the wide-open election for Georgia’s No. 2 job.

The ex-prosecutor told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he was convinced by senior Democrats that making the leap to the lieutenant governor’s race would give him a better chance to advocate for his priorities – and a better shot at victory.

“Leaders in the party asked me to consider the switch, and the more I looked at it, the more I saw I could help the ticket by talking about public safety, criminal justice reform and expanding health care,” he said.

Bailey had been angling for a rematch against Republican Attorney General Chris Carr, who narrowly defeated him in 2018. But he faced stiff Democratic opposition from state Sen. Jen Jordan, a high-profile attorney who now has a glidepath to the nomination.

Though he’s relatively late to the contest, Bailey hopes to take advantage of a muddled field with no clear favorite.

Charlie Bailey's decision gives state Sen. Jen Jordan a clear path to the Democratic nomination for attorney general. Bob Andres /

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The Democratic contenders include state Rep. Erick Allen of Smyrna; state Rep. Derrick Jackson of Tyrone; Bryan Miller, grandson of former Gov. Zell Miller; and state Rep. Renitta Shannon of Decatur.

Bailey enters the contest with powerful backers. Former Gov. Roy Barnes and U.S. Reps. Lucy McBath and Hank Johnson both endorsed Bailey in tandem with his announcement. So did DuBose Porter, the former Democratic Party of Georgia chairman.

Porter was among the Democrats who appealed to Bailey to switch races. He said Bailey’s background as a protégé of former Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor and a veteran prosecutor would round out a ticket led by Stacey Abrams and U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock.

“He was a great candidate in 2018 and he brought so much to the ticket. He has a unique background that would be a perfect fit policy-wise in contrast with those running on the Republican side,” Porter said. “This is someone who has prosecuted cases but also defended civil rights.”

Bailey captured about 48.7% of the vote in 2018 when he was defeated by Carr – the highest vote share of any statewide Democrat that cycle other than Abrams. Carr, a former economic development commissioner, won by roughly 100,000 votes.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr (left) and Democratic opponent Charlie Bailey (AJC FILE PHOTOS)

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But he was considered the underdog in this year’s Democratic primary against Jordan, who had earned national attention for her opposition to the Republican-backed anti-abortion law that narrowly passed in 2019. A range of well-known Georgia Democrats and powerful national organizations backed her bid.

‘A different perspective’

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan’s decision not to stand for a second term triggered an open contest on the GOP side, too. State Sens. Burt Jones and Butch Miller have raced to curry favor with conservative voters. Party activist Jeanne Seaver is in the race, too.

“Instead of using their power to work on issues that might improve Georgians’ lives, the Republicans running for lieutenant governor are in a competition to see who can become more authoritarian,” said Bailey. “And when you do that, you no longer have credibility.”

“I respect all the Democrats in the race but my decision has nothing to do with them. I’m running against Butch Miller and Burt Jones,” Bailey said. “And I’m running for the issues that will decide this election: health care, public safety and education.”

“It’s attacking the same problems,” he said, “just from a different perspective.”

He will push legislation to create a civil rights division that would investigate discrimination complaints and rogue law enforcement officers. And he echoes other Democrats with calls to expand Medicaid, increase school funding and finance higher teacher pay.

His background as a former Fulton County prosecutor who targeted gang offenders could also complicate GOP efforts to brand Democrats as “defund the police” backers who are weak on crime.

“I respect all the Democrats in the race but my decision has nothing to do with them. I’m running against Butch Miller and Burt Jones,” Bailey said. “And I’m running for the issues that will decide this election: healthcare, public safety and education.”

10/29/2018 -- Madison, Georgia -- Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams is joined by Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor Sarah Riggs Amico (right) and Democratic Attorney General candidate Charlie Bailey (left) as she speaks during an early voters rally in Madison, Monday, October 29, 2018.  (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

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Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Abrams, the state Democratic party’s most prominent figure, isn’t taking sides in the jumbled race. Her campaign manager Lauren Groh-Wargo said the party’s slate will be formidable.

“We feel like we’ll have an unbelievable ticket that represents the diversity of our state,” she said.

Other prominent Democrats, however, quickly tried to clear the way for Bailey. McBath said he would be an “outstanding nominee” and advocate for Democratic causes in the Georgia statehouse.

“I am endorsing him because I know we can count on him to fight for civil rights, voting rights and common-sense gun safety reforms that will save lives.”

Bailey’s endorsements:

Former Gov. Roy Barnes:

“I got to know Charlie when I hired him as a young lawyer and saw how hard he worked on behalf of regular people who needed someone to fight for them. He worked hard to get justice for teachers whose pensions had been shortchanged and help those fighting for justice against insurance companies. I was proud to support him when he did so well as a first-time statewide candidate in 2018. I know he’ll be an asset to Stacey Abrams and the entire Democratic ticket as our nominee for Lieutenant Governor.”

U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson:

“Charlie is a proven, strong candidate for statewide office, so we can be sure he will be a strong nominee for Lieutenant Governor who will defeat whichever far-right candidate the other party nominates. We can count on Charlie as Lieutenant Governor to fight for everyday Georgians, including protecting our right to vote, fighting for affordable healthcare by expanding Medicaid and better public schools.”

Former Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor:

“I know Charlie well from when he worked for me when I was Lieutenant Governor. I know he’ll be a very strong candidate and great running mate for Stacey Abrams and that he’ll be a great Lieutenant Governor. I know firsthand how much good can be done by a Lieutenant Governor dedicated to fighting for working Georgians, including improving schools, making college and technical school more accessible, and protecting people from crime. We can count on Charlie to win and use the office to improve the lives of the people of Georgia.”

State Rep. Al Williams:

I know Charlie will be a great running mate for future Governor Stacey Abrams and an asset to every Democrat on the ballot this year. As someone who represents a South Georgia district, I know we need geographic diversity at the top of our ticket, as well as Charlie’s experience in law enforcement and commitment to civil rights and protecting everyone’s right to vote. I look forward to campaigning with him and working with him next year to bring Georgia together and make this state a better place for everyone.