Attorney general candidates spar over abortion, crime  

ATLANTA — Georgia’s three candidates for the state’s top lawyer job sparred over abortion, guns, crime and even oil pipelines during a Tuesday debate in Atlanta.  

Much of the debate focused on how each would approach the state’s controversial “heartbeat” abortion law, which outlaws most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy.  

Democratic state Sen. and lawyer Jen Jordan of Atlanta has been a vocal opponent of the law. She has previously indicated she would not enforce it if elected attorney general.  

During Tuesday’s debate, Jordan said she believes the Georgia abortion law violates the state Constitution.

“I think specifically what we have to look to is the right of privacy under Georgia’s state Constitution, which was first identified in 1905,” she said.

 “I have stood up for the women of this state, fighting to protect human trafficking victims, fighting to protect victims of gangs, fighting for those that are being taken advantage of from an elder abuse standpoint ” incumbent Republican Attorney General Chris Carr said in response.  

The Georgia abortion law does not allow a pregnant woman to be prosecuted, Carr said, and Jordan’s claim is a scare tactic.   

“If anyone, it’s the [medical] providers that are provided for in this law,” he said. “It would be up to the district attorneys to make that determination.” 

Jordan hit back, pointing out that the Georgia abortion law specifies that an embryo is a person and this new legal definition could allow prosecution of pregnant women.  

“When we think about the homicide statute, the manslaughter statute … the child abuse statute, all of that would actually apply … to a pregnant woman if she were to harm the embryo,” Jordan said. “It’s ridiculous to say that this law does not let a prosecutor go after a woman because it’s clear that it does.”

The candidates also sparred over crime. Carr pointed to his track record in prosecuting human trafficking and gang crimes. He also said Jordan missed many key votes – including on laws about crime – while she was in the state legislature.

Jordan said crime has increased over 60% in the state and that Carr had done nothing to address the issue.  

She said she is a supporter of the Second Amendment but believes in  gun control measures such as red-flag and safe-storage laws. 

“As the next attorney general, I’m going to work with local police departments and agencies to get illegal guns off the streets and out of violent street gangs,” Jordan vowed.  

Carr also decried the role of federal overreach and touted his support for free enterprise and competition in Georgia.

“Number one, I believe in the power of the free enterprise system,” he said. “I believe in the rule of law.” 

Carr pointed to his decision to join other states in a lawsuit over an executive order issued by President Joe Biden to stop construction on the Keystone Pipeline.  

“I’ve tried to protect lives, livelihoods and liberty over the past six years,” Carr said. “In fighting for the Constitution, I’m fighting for American jobs, lower gas prices, and less reliance on evil regimes that hate us.”

In response, Jordan accused Carr of focusing more on filing lawsuits against the federal government than prosecuting crime.  

“People in this state do not feel safe,” she said. “He’s actually sued the Biden administration more than he’s gone after gangs or sex traffickers.”

Libertarian Martin Cowen also weighed in, taking Carr’s position against federal overreach but agreeing with Jordan’s stance on protecting abortion rights.  

Cowen, like Jordan and Carr, graduated from the University of Georgia School of Law.

“The next attorney general for the state of Georgia shall be a graduate of the University of Georgia law school,” Cowen said. “Go Dawgs!”

Early voting in Georgia continues through Nov. 4, the last Friday before Election Day Nov. 8. 

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

Walker denies paying for 2009 abortion, vows to sue over story

Herschel Walker

ATLANTA – Republican U.S. Senate nominee Herschel Walker, a staunch opponent of abortion, is denying a media report that he paid for an abortion for a girlfriend in 2009.

But his son reacted to Walker’s response to the story The Daily Beast posted on its website Monday by calling his father on Twitter a liar and hypocrite.

The elder Walker told FOX News host Sean Hannity Monday night the story is “a flat-out lie” concocted by supporters of incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga.

“They’ll do anything to win this seat,” Walker said. “They want to make it about everything else except the true problems we have in this country: inflation, the border wide open, crime. They don’t want to talk about that, so they’re making up lies.”

Walker is vowing to sue The Daily Beast for defamation.

Meanwhile, his 24-year-old son, Christian Walker, criticized his father on Twitter after The Daily Beast posted the abortion story. The younger Walker said he has been mostly absent from the campaign trail because his father has not owned up to his past.

“I did one event last year when we were told he was going to get ahead of his past and hold himself accountable,” Christian Walker said. “That never happened.”

Warnock’s campaign has been running ads featuring Herschel Walker’s ex-wife, Cindy Grossman, describing how he held a gun to her head.

Walker has said he is accountable for his past violent behavior but that he was struggling with dissociative identity disorder at the time, a mental illness about which he later wrote a book.

The younger Walker, who has gained a reputation as a conservative influencer, said the family tried to talk Herschel Walker out of running for the Senate because of his violent past.

Christian Walker took his father to task for posing in campaign ads as a “family man.”

“You don’t get to pretend you’re some moral family guy,” the younger Walker said. “Talk policy. Do not lie.”

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation

Carr, Jordan clash over abortion rights

Democratic State Sen. Jen Jordan (left) is challenging Republican incumbent Attorney General Chris Carr (right). (Official Senate office and Attorney General office photos)

ATLANTA – Despite their differences, the two candidates for Georgia attorney general share one important commonalty: Both were trained at the University of Georgia law school. 

Incumbent Republican Chris Carr, who graduated from UGA in 1999, touts his conservative values and his successes prosecuting gangs and human traffickers as reasons Georgians should vote for him for a second full term. 

Democrat Jen Jordan, a state senator from North Atlanta and a 2001 UGA law grad, has staked her claim to the top legal job on her strong defense of abortion rights. 

Jordan cemented her statewide political reputation in a fiery 2019 speech on the Senate floor opposing a Georgia law that banned abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy. She described her personal experiences with multiple miscarriages and staked her pro-choice stance on a woman’s right to privacy. 

The U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision to overturn a 1973 ruling guaranteeing a woman’s right to an abortion allowed Georgia’s “heartbeat law” to finally take effect this summer and pushed abortion to the center of this fall’s political debates. 

Carr has vigorously defended the Georgia law. He says that an attorney general must uphold all state laws. Just after the Supreme Court issued its ruling on abortion, he asked a federal circuit court to allow the Georgia law to take effect.

“It’s the job of the attorney general to defend and uphold the laws of Georgia passed by the General Assembly and signed by our governor,” he said. “That’s what I do. That’s what the state constitution requires.”

But Jordan disagrees. 

“I don’t think it’s constitutional,” Jordan said of the Georgia heartbeat law a few days after the Supreme Court decision. “I would not defend it because I don’t think it’s lawful.” 

Jordan’s position has garnered endorsements from national pro-choice groups—and drawn incumbent Carr’s ire.  

Beyond abortion, Carr touts his record prosecuting human trafficking and gangs as a top achievement. 

Carr created a Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit in 2019. So far, the unit has convicted six people and indicted more than 40. 

Carr also recently formed a Gang Prosecution Unit, said spokeswoman Kara Richardson. The unit currently is pursuing more than a dozen cases.

The incumbent Republican is also a strong supporter of gun rights. He joined coalitions of attorneys general calling on federal courts to overturn laws limiting magazine capacities in New Jersey and California.

Jordan says gang activity and gun violence have been on the rise during Carr’s tenure as attorney general and change is needed.

“I pledge to crack down on the illegal gun trade and work with law enforcement to tackle gun violence,” she said. “I will prioritize my efforts to combat gang crimes, and I will aggressively prosecute individuals implicated in such activity.”

A fundamental part of Carr’s legal philosophy is his opposition to what he calls “federal overreach.” His office filed five separate lawsuits against federal mask and vaccine mandates during the COVID pandemic.

“Chris is pro-vaccine personally, but he knew it was unconstitutional for the president [Biden] to turn private companies into the ‘health police’ against their employees,” his campaign website states. 

Carr also opposed a Biden administration ban on oil drilling permits on federal lands and advocated for reversing the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline, claiming a ban would drive up energy costs and cause job losses. 

Jordan touts her campaign against a medical sterilization facility in Cobb County that was emitting carcinogenic air pollution as one of her top achievements.

“Although [the factory] is in operation, the fight isn’t over,” she said. “It is for this reason, and more, that I am running to be the next attorney general of Georgia.”

Jordan also authored a law this year that legalized fentanyl testing strips in Georgia. The test strips can help people identify fentanyl, an often deadly opioid, to better protect themselves and minimize risk. 

“This law will save lives,” she said. 

For his part, Carr has led Georgia through health-care settlements with large corporations that will return money to the state. Georgia is expected to receive around $636 million as part of a national opioid settlement and around $19 million as part of a settlement with vaping company JUUL. 

Carr – like other top Georgia Republicans – has been forced to steer a delicate path when it comes to the national political divisions created during the Trump presidency. He supported many Trump policies and – along with other Republican attorneys general – opposed the 2020 impeachment of the then-president. 

But after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, Carr signed on to a letter to then-U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen condemning the riot.

Closer to home, Carr has defended Georgia’s voting laws. 

“My office won case after case that have targeted Georgia election laws because we followed the facts, not the political rhetoric,” he said. 

Jordan said she would be a strong defender of voting rights if elected the state’s top lawyer.

“I will respond swiftly to allegations of voter fraud or any claims of voter intimidation, and work to ensure every Georgian’s vote is counted,” Jordan said.

A galvanizing moment in Carr’s career came when young Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed after being accosted by three white men in February 2020 in Brunswick.

After it emerged that local district attorneys had ties to the accused murderers and had fumbled the investigation, Carr appointed Cobb County District Attorney Joyette Holmes – a Black woman – to lead the prosecution in the racially sensitive case.

Carr also asked both the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the federal Department of Justice to investigate the matter.

“The loss of Ahmaud Arbery was a tragedy that should have never occurred,” Carr said when the three white men were convicted last year.

Jordan said law enforcement reforms are needed. Her campaign website says that the “overcriminalization of drug offenses” has led to “mass incarceration.” 

“As your attorney general, I will partner and work with law enforcement to strengthen police accountability mechanisms and to build community-led public safety strategies,” she said.

Martin Cowen, a Libertarian candidate, is also running for the attorney general position. 

The three candidates will debate Oct. 18 as part of the Atlanta Press Club Loudermilk-Young debate series. 

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

Judge: Abortion law to remain in effect

ATLANTA – Georgia’s “heartbeat” abortion law will continue to operate while a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the law is pending, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney ruled Monday.  

The order represents a setback for abortion-rights advocates who had argued the judge should immediately block the law while their case against it was pending.  

The Georgia law bans most abortions after fetal cardiac activity is detected, usually around six weeks of pregnancy.  

Though Georgia’s law was initially adopted in 2019, abortion-rights groups challenged it in federal court and prevented the law from taking effect until this year.

A federal appeals court put Georgia’s law into immediate effect last month, shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court opened the way by overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion. 

The group of plaintiffs – including reproductive-rights groups Planned Parenthood Southeast and SisterSong – then turned to state courts, claiming that the abortion law violates the Georgia Constitution’s right to privacy.  

During last week’s hearing, the groups asked the court to block the Georgia law from taking effect while the lawsuit was pending.  

McBurney declined to do so Monday, stating that “the court is dismissing the motion not on its merits but because the court lacks jurisdiction to consider its merits.”  

He made clear the case will continue to examine the constitutionality of the abortion law.  

“The question of whether it is constitutional for the state to force a woman to carry to term a six-week-old embryo against her wishes, even in the face of serious medical risk, remains to be answered,” McBurney concluded his Monday order.  

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation

Abortion-rights lawyers ask state judge to temporarily block Georgia’s abortion law

Judge Robert McBurney (photo credit: Fulton County Superior Court)

ATLANTA – Lawyers for abortion-rights groups asked a state judge Monday to temporarily block Georgia’s new abortion law.

The law – which bans abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected – took effect in July. Initially approved by the General Assembly in 2019, it had been under legal challenge in federal courts. Last month, the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the Georgia law and put it into effect immediately.  

Lawyers for abortion-rights groups including Planned Parenthood Southeast and SisterSong then took their fight to state court, contending that the abortion ban violates the Georgia Constitution’s right to privacy.   

On Monday, the plaintiff lawyers asked Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney to block the law by issuing a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction.  

They argued the law was void from the moment it passed the General Assembly three years ago because it violated then-settled U.S. Supreme Court precedent about the right to an abortion.  

The state – represented by Solicitor General Stephen Petrany – countered that Georgia law does not require a judge to temporarily block a law before he or she has issued a decision on the case. 

Although the 2019 law did not necessarily fit the Supreme Court’s abortion precedents at the time, the Georgia abortion law represented legislators’ – and through them, Georgians’ – will, Petrany said.  Therefore, it was valid from the start.  

McBurney indicated he would issue a ruling on the request for an injunction soon.  

In a brief press conference after the hearing, abortion-rights advocates said Georgians have been directly harmed by the new abortion ban.  

“The Georgia Constitution says there is a right to privacy and that right to privacy extends to a person’s body and a person’s health,” said Susan Lambiase, a lawyer for Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

“[People] either have to forcibly remain pregnant, or they have to figure out a way … to go to some state that provides more access [to abortion].”

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.