When he ran for attorney general in 2018, Charlie Bailey won a higher percentage of the vote than any Democrat on the ballot not named Stacey Abrams.
While Republicans clung to power—barely—that year, in 2020 Democrats finished the job of flipping the state, electing Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock to the Senate and helping Joe Biden win the White House by an even smaller margin.
Two months later, Bailey kicked off his next campaign. Voters have barely had a reprieve from the full-court press of the 2020 elections, but the 2022 campaign season is already upon us.
“Historically, it’s not early, but I think social media makes it seem that way,” Bailey told Flagpole. “It’s a big state; it’s a really big state. To bring people this message of change, I can’t bring them to my office. It takes time.”
Bailey was in town recently for a fundraiser co-hosted by Mayor Kelly Girtz, commissioners Russell Edwards and Ovita Thornton, former mayor Gwen O’Looney and state Rep. Spencer Frye. He also sat down with Flagpole to discuss his campaign against Attorney General Chris Carr.
But before he faces Carr, Bailey has a potentially formidable Democratic opponent in state Sen. Jen Jordan (D-Atlanta), who became a national political figure when she made an impassioned speech against Georgia’s “heartbeat bill” restricting abortion.
“Jen’s my friend. She’s a good lawyer,” Bailey said. “Democrats know me. About 1.9 million Georgians voted for me, even though we were outspent four to one.”
Bailey started running local campaigns while he was a UGA law student in the mid-aughts. After graduation, he went to work for former Gov. Roy Barnes’ law firm, then as a prosecutor in Fulton County, then in civil litigation for the firm Cook & Connelly. Several reformist district attorneys have endorsed him, including his old boss, newly elected Fulton DA Fani Willis, as well as Jared Williams in Augusta and Dalia Racine in Douglas County. Willis, Bailey said, taught him that being a prosecutor is about seeking justice for vulnerable victims preyed upon by people who think no one will care about their crimes. “Sometimes it’s asking for 20 years to life,” he said. “Sometimes it’s about dismissing a case.”
Bailey criticized Carr for his lack of prosecutorial experience, pointing to Carr’s decision to allow the Brunswick district attorney, Jackie Johnson, to name her replacement when she recused herself in the Ahmaud Arbery case. “Anybody who’s ever prosecuted would recognize immediately—red flag,” Bailey said, arguing that the attorney general’s office should have taken on the case right from the start. (Johnson’s choice, the district attorney in Waycross, did not charge the suspects, and Carr only stepped in once video of Arbery’s shooting was released.)
If elected, Bailey said, he will form a civil rights division to tackle issues like fair housing and environmental justice. He also said he would not defend Georgia against lawsuits over the new state law restricting absentee voting. In fact, he said, he would side with the plaintiffs, leaving the Republican-led legislature to hire its own defense attorney.
He also said he would tackle corruption, claiming that Carr has not indicted any state officials since taking office in 2016. “Does anybody really think there’s no corruption going on under the Gold Dome?” Bailey said. “Give me a break.”
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