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Georgia’s top legal office comes with power. Candidates say what they’d do with it.

Candidates for Georgia attorney general: Democrat Charlie Bailey, left; and Republican incumbent Chris Carr.
Candidates for Georgia attorney general: Democrat Charlie Bailey, left; and Republican incumbent Chris Carr. mlee@macon.com

The Republican and the Democrat running for Georgia’s top legal office both say they want to protect the people of Georgia, but for each man that means something different on topics like predatory lending, health care and more.

Republican incumbent Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr said that in office, he’s been guided by the principles of rule of law, federalism, the power of the free enterprise system and common sense.

“I’ve been proud to protect Georgia both from a law enforcement perspective and from an economic security perspective,” Carr said, summing up his case in an Atlanta debate on Tuesday.

Democrat Charlie Bailey made the case he’s the better protector.

“Whether you are a leader of an organized crime syndicate, or you are a corrupt insurance company or you are a corrupt politician you’re going to have no worse enemy than me,” Bailey said.

The attorney general leads an office that represents the state and its agencies in court, like representing the state in capital felony appeals or in lawsuits against the federal government. The office is a consumer watchdog agency as well, so it can investigate consumer complaints.

For example, Georgia doesn’t have the strongest consumer protection laws when it comes to high-interest car title loans, a form of what critics call “predatory lending.”

Bailey said he’d press for a stronger predatory lending law. “You have to be an advocate for laws that protect people,” he said.

Asked about the same topic, Carr said his job is to uphold the laws passed by the state Legislature and signed by the governor. If any change is necessary, it’s properly handled by those leaders, Carr said. Carr said he’s proud of the work his office does to combat scams and predations against elderly people.

There will be five amendments to the Georgia Constitution that people will be voting on in the Nov. 6, 2018, midterm election. This is a short explanation of each amendment.

Another major difference is how they see the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.

Carr, in office, has joined several states in suing the federal government over ACA. The argument is that Congress made the law unconstitutional when it eliminated parts of the law on which the U.S. Supreme Court based previous rulings on Obamacare’s constitutionality.

Bailey has said he would withdraw Georgia from that suit.

Bailey said that if elected, he would go after opioid manufacturers and distributors that deceptively marketed those strong painkillers to doctors. Many counties in Georgia have done that, as have several states. Bailey also said he’d look into whether it’s suitable to start criminal investigations against executives from those companies.

Carr has not joined any states in suing opioid companies, but his department has selected outside counsel to handle investigation and litigation involving opioids. He’s also done things like start the Statewide Opioid Task Force, a formal network for public and private institutions working on fighting opioid abuse.

Carr was appointed attorney general in 2016, when Sam Olens left the job to run Kennesaw State University. Before that, Carr led the state’s economic development office and he’s been chief of staff to U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson.

Before this campaign, Bailey was a senior assistant district attorney in Fulton County; and before that worked for the Barnes Law Group.

Bailey, channeling courtroom performance skills, often criticizes Carr for not having been a practicing attorney for years. At the Tuesday debate, Bailey said Carr isn’t qualified to get an interview in the very state office he runs. Carr countered that his job is to support the team at the attorney general’s office and he’s proud of his professional record.

Most of the money in the race is going to Carr’s campaign. Bailey reported raising about $747,000 for for the eight months of this year through Sept. 30.

Carr has been raising money since February last year — and at about $1,870,000 has more than doubled the Democrat’s fundraising.

Election Day is Nov. 6. Early voting begins Oct. 15.

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