Like the Georgia governor’s race, the fight to become the state’s attorney general is a partisan battle. However, the down-ballot battle has taken a strange turn in the Chattahoochee Valley with two key Republicans supporting the Democratic challenger.
Democrat Charlie Bailey, born and raised in Harris County, has drawn endorsements from Harris County Sheriff and vocal Republican Mike Jolley and state Rep. John Pezold, R-Columbus. Bailey is trying to unseat incumbent Chris Carr. Bailey, with his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Georgia, was most recently a gang task force prosecutor with the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office.
Jolley, who could not be reached for comment, explained his decision to back Bailey in an Oct. 24 Facebook post on his personal page.
“I have had a lot of my friends ask about the State of Georgia Attorney General race and the fact I support a Democrat,” the sheriff wrote. “It is a known fact I am a Republican Sheriff and very conservative. However, the Democrat running for this position is a local Harris County boy who graduated with my son.”
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Jolley said he had known Bailey, a 2001 Harris County High School graduate, since he was in the first grade. Bailey’s mother, Pam Avery, is a former reporter for the Harris County Journal.
“Democrat or Republican is not the issue for me on this race,” Jolley wrote. “I know the young man personally. I like him and support him. As far as the other races go I am straight Republican.”
Pezold has another reason for backing Bailey. He said the fact that Bailey had been working in the legal profession and a prosecutor for the Fulton County District Attorney’s office was the reason he voted across party lines. Carr was appointed attorney general two years ago when Sam Olens resigned to become president of Kennesaw State University. Prior to that, Carr had worked as the state’s top economic developer under Gov. Nathan Deal and worked as chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson. Like Bailey, Carr has his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Georgia.
“Basically, it came down to two things for me,” Pezold said. “First, Charlie is an actual attorney, and the role of the attorney general is to enforce the laws that are passed by the legislature. I think an actual practicing attorney should be the attorney general of Georgia. But that’s just one man’s opinion.”
Bailey welcomed the support from Pezold, who did not seek re-election this year after three terms in the General Assembly.
“What it means to me is that John understands, like Republicans, Democrats, and Independents across Georgia, that this race is more important than parties or personal political self-interests..” Bailey said. “It’s about who is the most qualified person to protect Georgians from organized crime, opioid manufacturers, and corrupt politicians. John knows that we need an experienced prosecutor as attorney general, not a bureaucrat who has never prosecuted or tried a case.”
Carr downplays his lack of experience as a practicing attorney, though he did practice law with Alston & Bird LLP in Atlanta and later as vice president and general counsel for the Georgia Public Policy Foundation
“I am very proud of the career I have had,” Carr said Wednesday morning during a campaign stop in Columbus. “I have been the attorney general for the past two years, so I am the one who’s been doing the job, No. 1. And No. 2, in order to be the attorney general you have to understand the law, you got to understand policy, you got to understand the federal side, understand the state side and you have to be able to communicate. I have done all of those things working for Johnny Isakson, working as the commissioner of economic development and as the attorney general.”
Carr said his experience fits the job he is now holding.
“I think it does come down to experience and record and I am the one who has it,” Carr said.
He also said that the endorsements from Pezold and Jolley are outliers.
“I would say that is just his home turf,” Carr said. “I am focusing on the 81 sheriffs who have endorsed me, over 30 DAs, and we have a lot of Democrats who are supporting us as well. It will come down to what happens on election day.”