Deal ap­points loy­al­ist to be Ge­or­gia’s at­tor­ney gen­eral

The Standard Journal - - REGION -

AT­LANTA — Ge­or­gia Gov. Nathan Deal on Wed­nes­day tapped one of his top deputies, Chris Carr, to be­come the state’s next at­tor­ney gen­eral.

A list of pow­er­ful fig­ures quickly lined up to sup­port Carr, send­ing a blunt mes­sage that he will have big busi­ness and po­lit­i­cal back­ing when he asks vot­ers for a full term in 2018.

Carr, the state’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment com­mis­sioner, will take of­fice on Nov. 1 as head of the Depart­ment of Law, ad­min­is­ter­ing a staff of more than 300 tasked with en­forc­ing state laws and in­ves­ti­gat­ing pub­lic cor­rup­tion. He is Deal’s high­est-pro­file ap­point­ment since the gover­nor took of­fice in 2011.

Carr, 44, will be­come only the sixth per­son to hold the state’s top law po­si­tion since 1945. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Sam Olens, who was elected in 2010 and won another four-year term in 2014, an­nounced his res­ig­na­tion Wed­nes­day after the Board of Re­gents named him Ken­ne­saw State Uni­ver­sity’s pres­i­dent.

Olens’ ap­point­ment had long been at the cen­ter of swirling ru­mors at the state­house, and Deal moved quickly Wed­nes­day to ap­point his long­time ally to the cov­eted po­si­tion.

In an in­ter­view with The At­lanta Jour­nal- Con­sti­tu­tion, Deal said that Carr’s ad­min­is­tra­tive skills and “ser­vant’s heart” helped him make the de­ci­sion.

“He has a lot of com­mon sense, and that’s what any pub­lic ser­vant needs,” Deal said. “He’s in­tel­lec­tu­ally bril­liant. He un­der­stands the con­se­quences, and he un­der­stands the dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives.”

A grad­u­ate of the Uni­ver­sity of Ge­or­gia’s law school, Carr worked in pub­lic pol­icy and Repub­li­can pol­i­tics after a stint at the Al­ston & Bird law firm. He was a top aide to U.S. Sen. Johnny Isak­son be­fore Deal named him to lead the state’s eco­nomic arm in 2013. He said he would stand for elec­tion as at­tor­ney gen­eral in 2018.

Carr said his un­der­stand­ing of state and leg­isla­tive is­sues and his management of a state agency with more than 200 em­ploy­ees helped him pre­pare for the job.

“That’s the kind of ex­pe­ri­ence I can bring to bear at the Depart­ment of Law to rep­re­sent the state of Ge­or­gia and the in­ter­ests of the peo­ple of our state,” Carr said. “Peo­ple will judge me on the job that I do, and I’ll get up ev­ery day with a solemn re­spon­si­bil­ity to rep­re­sent Ge­or­gia.”

The ap­point­ment flings Carr head­long into a pitched elec­tion bat­tle. Sev­eral Repub­li­cans, in­clud­ing state Sen. Josh McKoon and out­go­ing state Rep. B.J. Pak, have been men­tioned as pos­si­ble con­tenders. So has state Rep. Stacey Evans, a Smyrna Demo­crat con­sid­ered a ris­ing star in her party.

Carr comes armed with a string of early en­dorse­ments lined up with the help of Deal and Isak­son. He’s a pro­tege of both Repub­li­can lead­ers, and their ad­vis­ers see him as a po­ten­tial can­di­date for higher of­fice down the line. His ties to Isak­son re­main strong: His wife is the Repub­li­can sen­a­tor’s cur­rent chief of staff.

Among Carr’s sup­port­ers is for­mer Gov. Roy Barnes, a Demo­crat who is buck­ing party lines to back the Repub­li­can. Barnes said he got to know Carr when he was work­ing for Isak­son, a fel­low Cobb County na­tive whom the ex-gover­nor also en­dorsed for re-elec­tion.

“I’ve known Chris for a long time. I think it’s a good ap­point­ment. I think he’ll do a great job,” said Barnes, who added that he might also back Carr in 2018. “If folks do a good job, whether they be a Demo­crat or Repub­li­can, then I’ll en­dorse them then. I have noth­ing but con­fi­dence that he’ll do a good job.”

At­lanta Mayor Kasim Reed also sent the AJC a note sup­port­ing Deal’s choice for at­tor­ney gen­eral.

The ap­point­ment plunges Carr into a bit­ter bat­tle over the “re­li­gious lib­erty” leg­is­la­tion in Ge­or­gia, which could be­come the fo­cus of his elec­tion bat­tle in two years.

That’s be­cause McKoon is a lead­ing ad­vo­cate for such leg­is­la­tion, which was em­braced by so­cial con­ser­va­tives who said it would pro­tect the faithful from gov­ern­ment in­ter­fer­ence. Pow­er­ful busi­ness groups made de­feat­ing it a top pri­or­ity, call­ing it veiled dis­crim­i­na­tion against gays and other groups, and they cheered Deal’s veto of the mea­sure this year.

Many of those in­flu­en­tial big busi­ness forces are al­ready lin­ing up be­hind Carr. Ge­or­gia Power Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Paul Bow­ers and AGL Re­sources ex­ec­u­tive Hank Ling­in­fel­ter, the chair­man of the Ge­or­gia Cham­ber of Com­merce, both sent state­ments en­dors­ing Carr as a pro-busi­ness force.

And Deal called Carr the “face and the voice of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment in Ge­or­gia” who helped cre­ate more than 83,000 jobs on his watch.

Also in Carr’s cor­ner is out­go­ing U.S. Rep. Lynn West­more­land, a Coweta County Repub­li­can and fa­vorite of grass-roots con­ser­va­tives. He called Carr a “trusted con­ser­va­tive who knows how to make gov­ern­ment work.”

West­more­land will likely be cited as ev­i­dence that his sup­port ex­tends be­yond the GOP es­tab­lish­ment.

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