Democrat Bailey launches 2022 rematch against Georgia AG Carr

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

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

Democrat Charlie Bailey launched a rematch bid Monday against Republican Attorney General Chris Carr with a pledge to create a statewide civil rights division and start a new unit to fight organized crime if he’s elected to Georgia’s top law enforcement post.

Bailey also took aim at Carr’s support for President Donald Trump, who narrowly lost the state in November, and his leadership of an organization that encouraged Republicans to march on the U.S. Capitol to “stop the steal” ahead of last week’s deadly riot in Washington.

“It was a violent insurrection and an attempted coup. To me, Carr should be disqualified from office – he broke the trust of the people of Georgia,” Bailey said in an interview. “They should be able to expect their attorney general is not engaged in an effort to usurp the will of the people.”

Carr’s spokeswoman said the attorney general “unequivocally had no knowledge or involvement” in a robocall from an arm of the Republican Attorneys General Association, which Carr chairs, that urged supporters to descend on the Capitol to demand that Congress block the certification of the election.

An ex-prosecutor, 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 Stacey Abrams. Carr, a former economic development commissioner appointed to the job, won by roughly 100,000 votes.

The timing of Bailey’s announcement, just days after the Senate runoffs marked the end of a chaotic 2020 campaign season, previewed the coming frenzy of political developments for the next round of votes in less than two years.

Bailey, now a trial attorney, is the first high-profile Democrat in a wave of expected contenders to announce their bids for next year’s election, when every statewide office is up for grabs, along with the U.S. Senate seat recently won by Democrat Raphael Warnock.

Maneuvering is already underway among ascendant Democrats buoyed by Joe Biden’s narrow victory in the state and the Senate runoff sweeps. Republicans are jockeying as well, with some eyeing primary challenges to Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

‘Say what’s right’

The hyper-competitive dynamics could also shape Bailey’s bid.

He ran unopposed in the Democratic primary in 2018; this cycle he might face multiple rivals from his own party. Bailey said he’s lined up $350,000 in pledges, along with endorsements from former Gov. Roy Barnes, U.S. Reps. Lucy McBath and Hank Johnson, and influential state legislators and local district attorneys.

“If someone decides to run, that’s not something I can control. I showed I was a strong nominee and the results bear that out,” Bailey said. “We’re going to get the band back together and hit it as hard as we can.”

Carr’s campaign said in a statement later Monday that the Republican is “focused on bringing Georgia together during this difficult time.”

“Chris Carr is working to put human traffickers and violent gang members behind bars, curb the opioid epidemic and protect constitutional liberties for all Georgians regardless of race, ethnicity or economic position,” said Heath Garrett, Carr’s campaign adviser.

Bailey plans to focus his campaign on promises to prosecute civil rights violations and launch a state organized crime unit that would, in part, pursue white supremacist groups and domestic terrorists.

“People that like to campaign on being tough on crime, but they don’t have a clue what they’re talking about,” said Bailey, whose 2018 bid highlighted his work as an anti-gang prosecutor in Fulton County. “To bring these people down takes long-term proactive investigations. That’s what I’ll do in office.”

He criticized Carr for not aggressively committing state prosecutors to join the investigations into Georgia residents who participated in the deadly mob that assaulted the Capitol, suggesting the attorney general can’t because of his group’s involvement in the robocall.

“What should be happening now is that the Attorney General should be conducting investigations into whether elected officials or other Georgians were involved in the plotting of the violent insurrection,” said Bailey.

And he said Carr should have joined other state Republican officials who have repeatedly denounced the conspiracy theories from Trump and his allies falsely claiming that Georgia’s election results were “rigged” or tainted by fraud.

“When you occupy an office like that, you have a duty to stand up and say what’s right. Even if it’s your own party,” Bailey said. “He supported Donald Trump all the way through. His refusal to stand up to him doesn’t reflect Georgia values – it’s antithetical to the very nature of the state.”