U.S. Rep. Earl L. “Buddy” Carter Credit: Craig Nelson/The Current

“You run unopposed, or you run scared,” Earl “Buddy” Carter says of campaigning for public office. So far, that formula has proved remarkably successful for former city councilman and mayor from Pooler.

The 64-year-old Carter is seeking a fifth term as Coastal Georgia’s representative in Congress. That’s after his plan to run for the U.S. Senate seat held by Raphael Warnock was waylaid when Herschel Walker declared his candidacy for the seat. Carter told The Current that before Walker’s announcement, he had discussed an endorsement with former President Donald Trump at a meeting at the Trump Tower.  

Political professionals rate the First District a “safe” Republican seat. Yet two national calamities in which Carter played an outspoken role — the Covid pandemic and the Jan. 6, 2021, attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election — could scramble the 30-year hold the GOP has had over this office, adding new urgency to Rep. Carter’s “running scared” mantra. So, too, could the U.S. Supreme Court’s apparent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the uncertain direction of the Russia-Ukraine war, and most importantly, what is expected to be an unprecedented mobilization of Democratic voters by gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and Sen. Warnock.

Though affable, Rep. Carter doesn’t bridge differences so much as lean into them and amp them up. The institution he represents is too divided to legislate effectively and, according to recent polls, is even less popular than President Joe Biden. In an era of political polarization, Carter’s a politician of his time. He seldom misses a chance to use a national crisis as a partisan bludgeon.

One result is that opinions about Carter have hardened across the First District. In blue redoubts of Savannah, Liberty County and parts of Glynn, his name causes teeth-gnashing. In crimson rural and suburban areas, he’s hailed for holding the line against “radical socialists.”

The former pharmacist is one of the Congress’s most well-off members. An examination of financial disclosure forms by Open Secrets, a non-partisan group that tracks money in politics, ranked him in 2020 as the 10th wealthiest member of the House, with an estimated net worth of $66.5 million. He is deputy chairman of the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee and says that if he wins in November he wants to run for chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee after, as he expects, the GOP wins a majority in the House of Representatives.

As part of a series of Q&As with the candidates for the 1st District seat, The Current spoke with Rep. Carter May 2 in his office in Savannah. We talked about why he doubts the Centers for Disease Control on the pandemic and the U.S. secretary of defense and head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Ukraine. During our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity, we also discussed Jan. 6, the current state of the Republican Party, his voting record and planned assault on the national debt, as well as traveling to Trump Tower to talk with the former president about senatorial aspirations. 


You’ve been in electoral politics for nearly three decades. You served in Pooler’s city council for two years, then as the city’s mayor for eight. You went to Atlanta and served in the General Assembly for nine years, first as a representative, then as a senator. Now you’re seeking a fifth term as coastal Georgia’s representative in U.S. Congress. Why? What keeps you going?

It’s an honor and a privilege to represent the 1st District of Georgia especially because this is my home. This is where I’ve lived all my life, and where I intend to live the rest of my life. You can only imagine the honor that I feel to be able to represent the people I’ve grown up with. I take it very seriously.

I was in business for 32 years and worked very hard. My work ethic is what it is. I just love to work and love to work hard. This is very serious. I have staff calls at least twice a week, and I tell my staff, “This is our opportunity for public service.”

I didn’t have the honor of serving in our military. My honor is to serve those who do serve in our military and who have served in our military. This is our way of public service, of helping people.

The business I was in — retail pharmacy — is a service-oriented business. Serving in Congress is no different. The same rules I used in my business apply here. First, you got to show up to work. Second, you got to be nice to the constituents because, essentially, they’re our customers. And the third rule is simple: I never tell people to do anything. I always phrase it in the form of a question. At the same time, I do tell them I hope they’re going to do it.


Your fourth term in Congress has coincided with three momentous events: the coronavirus pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the attack on the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to disrupt the certification of the 2020 presidential election.

Starting with the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control says that as of yesterday [May 2], 991,178 Americans have died from Covid. On average, 307 Americans are dying each day from the coronavirus, and 57,020 cases are reported each day, the CDC says. In efforts to curb the pandemic, you supported mask-wearing but were against a government mandate for it, correct?

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter addresses the House on April 19, 2021. Credit: Screenshot, U.S. House, CSPAN

That’s correct.

Last August, though, you sent out a fundraising email saying that requiring masks in school was a “big government power grab … suffocating our children.” What did you mean? And how did masks “suffocate” children?

I’ve got six grandchildren, three of them are in Charlottesville, Virginia, and my only grandson — I have five granddaughters and one grandson — my only grandson developed a skin rash by having to wear a mask for so long. Also, it hasn’t been proven that this virus impacted children. Most children weren’t impacted by this virus. Not only that, it’s questionable whether — there’s a study out of Denmark about the efficacy of masks in stopping the spread of Covid.

As a health-care professional, I take this very seriously and the numbers that you stated—first of all, I question the accuracy of those. I’ve met with the CDC, with the [former] director, Dr. [Robert] Redfield.

You don’t believe those numbers?

I question their accuracy. I’m not going to dispute those numbers right now.

I’m just describing what was on the CDC website this morning.

I have to question, as a health-care professional, how many of those deaths attributed to Covid actually suffered from other illnesses. Granted, perhaps the Covid virus added to it. I don’t know. But you know, FEMA [the Federal Emergency Management Administration] paid $9,000 for everyone’s funeral who had a diagnosis of Covid. Anyway, there are just some questions still lingering in my mind about the number of deaths attributed to Covid.

Last June, you signed on to the “Fire Fauci Act,” which called for Dr. Anthony Fauci’s salary to be cut to zero. The legislation was introduced by another Georgia representative, Marjorie Taylor Greene. Under President Trump, Fauci was one of the lead members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. He’s now Biden’s chief medical adviser. Why did you support that bill?

U.S. Rep Buddy Carter speaks at a press conference about the Fire Fauci Act he co-sponsored with U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. Credit: Screenshot from YouTube video of press conference

I think people have lost confidence in Dr. Fauci. I think that he stopped being a health-care professional and became just a personality. I don’t think people have confidence in him — I don’t have confidence in him. I’ve had him before my committees — before the Budget Committee on at least one occasion and before the Energy and Commerce Committee on at least three different occasions — and I don’t think that he’s effective as a leader anymore. I don’t think people trust him anymore.

Why don’t they trust him anymore?

There have been too many discrepancies that have been brought out as a result of things that he has said and proposals that he has made.


On Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, you’ve expressed support for providing direct and indirect military aid to Ukraine. Is that correct?

Yes.

In 2019, the Government Accountability Office, the federal agency that investigates federal spending and performance for U.S. Congress, concluded that the Trump administration had violated the law by withholding military aid from Ukraine. Would you condemn the Trump administration for doing that?

No. 2018 was a lot different than 2022. It was a different time. Russia wasn’t invading Ukraine at that time. Remember that before all this started, Ukraine was rated the third-most corrupt country in the world. Let’s keep that in mind. This is a different scenario now — an unprovoked invasion by Vladimir Putin of Ukraine. So, I think you’re comparing apples and oranges.

You’ve said that you’re convinced that if Donald Trump were president of the United States, Russia’s invasion never would have happened. What did you mean?

Exactly what I said. I am convinced that it would not have happened because we had a strong leader then, a leader who was respected, at least by other foreign powers. I don’t believe this leader we have now is. I don’t believe Joe Biden is respected, particularly after what happened in Afghanistan, which I think was the worst foreign relations debacle in the history of this country. We left prisoners. We left American citizens behind enemy lines. I just can’t fathom that. I think this president is weak, and I think Vladimir Putin has exploited that.

So, you think Putin’s perception of Biden as a weak leader was a factor in his decision to invade Ukraine?

I don’t think he would have done it if Donald Trump were still in office.

What would Donald Trump have done? Why would Putin have been deterred by the presence of Trump in the Oval Office?

Putin didn’t do anything in four years while Trump was in there. I think Donald Trump said what he meant and meant what he said. Look, we didn’t have any wars while Donald Trump was in office.

We had Afghanistan.

Yes, okay.

In a speech in Savannah last month, you spoke of your mistrust in Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Gen. Mark Milley, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “I don’t believe anything they tell me anymore,” you said. Why don’t you believe them? If you don’t believe them, whom do you believe?

We have security briefings at the U.S. Capitol for Members of Congress. No electronics are allowed. No one else is allowed in the room but members of Congress. When President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops to invade Ukraine on February 22 — I remember because I was in Brussels at the European Union at the time. The weekend before, I met with the mayor of Kyiv. As part of a U.S. delegation at the Munich Security Conference, we heard from [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelenskyy.

In our first security briefings, Milley and Austin both told us that Kyiv would fall in three or four days. This is the intelligence they were getting at that time. Obviously, it still hasn’t fallen. What’s the reason for that? Is it because the Ukrainians were better prepared than what we thought? The Russians weren’t as prepared and were more incompetent than we thought? Regardless, it tells you that the intelligence that Milley and Austin were getting was not good intelligence.

Isn’t that the CIA’s fault?

I don’t know whose fault it is, but I don’t believe them.


You’ve called the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol “stupid.” You’ve said it was “one of the saddest” days in your life. You’ve said you also were “angry” as you witnessed events unfold from inside the House chamber. In your speech in Savannah last month, you said, “It should never have happened.” You also said that those responsible should be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

At the same time, in your remarks you also said the Democrats have “politicized” and “weaponized” Jan. 6. You’ve said, “Democrats are doing everything they can to keep this alive.” You described it as the sole reason one Democrat — Wade Herring — is running to face you in November. You also said those accused of leading and participating in the attack weren’t being given due process.

Let me ask you about two actions that day. After police and National Guard troops restored order in the Capitol, you were part of a delegation of Georgia lawmakers who stood on the floor of the House — in the words of Rep. Jody Hice, the spokesman for the delegation — to “object to the electoral votes in the state of Georgia on the grounds that the election conducted on November 3rd was faulty and fraudulent.” Do you still stand by that decision?

Yes, I do. I do because our Constitution is clear: Article I, Section 2, says it is the exclusive responsibility of the legislative branch to make changes to the voting laws in the States. What happened in the state of Georgia was that the secretary of state, who is a member of the executive branch, made changes that were significant and substantial changes to the voting laws. That is the responsibility of the legislative branch.

On March 28, 2020, during that session, I was the leader of our delegation, the Republican congressional delegation — that responsibility rotates every two years. I led the call to the secretary of state [Brad Raffensperger] on that Saturday—I remember it, I still have it in my journal. He told our delegation at that time that he had entered into a settlement agreement with the Democratic Party and Stacey Abrams to send out absentee applications to every voter in the state of Georgia. We objected to it. We told him that was wrong.

Raffensperger was under no legal obligation to obtain the General Assembly’s approval.

No, but we objected to it then. My objection on January 6, to what happened in the state of Georgia, was based on my understanding of Article I, Section 2, of the Constitution of the United States of America, which says that it is the exclusive responsibility of the legislative branch to make changes and to elect electors. What happened in Georgia was that changes were made — significant and substantial changes — were made by the executive branch. What happened in Arizona, and what happened in Pennsylvania, substantial and significant changes were made by the judicial branch. Neither one of those should have been made. I’ve never questioned whether the outcome was correct or not.

On the evening of Jan. 6, 2021, after plans were scrapped to challenge the results in Arizona and several other states, you joined eight senators and 137 other representatives — all Republicans — in voting to decertify Pennsylvania’s election results. Do you still stand by that vote?

I do. And the reason why is because the Constitution did not change, even though what happened on January 6 was one of the most deplorable things I’ve ever seen.

Is Joe Biden the legitimate president of the United States?

Yes, he is. And I have acknowledged that. I acknowledged that when he was inaugurated. I went to the inauguration. I pledged at that time that I would work with him as the duly elected president of the United States, and that I would try to find common ground with him to move our country forward.

Was the election in Georgia’s 1st District that re-elected you free and fair?

Yes.


On the subject of reelection, you’ve said you’re preparing to run on the strength of your record. So let me ask you about some of your legislative initiatives in the current session.

You have been very aggressive about critical race theory, or CRT. In the past year, you introduced two pieces of legislation to prevent it being taught in the military and in public schools— the “Military Education and Values Act” and the “For the Parents Act.” Both are in committee.

I had the opportunity to question Gen. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, about that. I feel very strongly about this. The only division that should be taught in our schools is in math. It should not be critical race theory.

There’s no reason for CRT to be taught in our military. There’s no reason for CRT to be taught in our school system. It’s divisive. I don’t think it’s accurate. I think it’s revisionist. In the case of the “For the Parents Act,” it’s very important to me that we make sure that our children are being taught the right thing and that parents are in control of what’s being taught.

You saw what happened in Virginia — I have a vested interest in what happens in Virginia because I have grandchildren in Charlottesville — a Republican, Glenn Youngkin, was elected governor in November because of the state’s education system. He promised to ban the teaching of CRT.

I made this clear to Gen. Milley, whose son was once stationed at Fort Stewart. I’ve met with Gen. Milley on numerous occasions at the Pentagon. I made clear to him that I didn’t think that this should be taught. That’s why I introduced the legislation.

Gen. Milley pushed back. He testified that CRT was no threat to the military, saying: “What is wrong with understanding, having some situational understanding about the country that we are here to defend. And I personally find it offensive that we are accusing the United States military of being quote, woke or something because we’re studying some theories that are out there.” Why was Gen. Milley wrong?

He was wrong because CRT has no place to be taught in our military. What should be taught in our military is how to win wars and how to be better soldiers. That is what they should be teaching. This is woke and has no place in our military whatsoever. I disagree with Gen. Milley on that. He’s obviously had a great military career. I really appreciate his service. But I just disagree.

This legislation also seems to suggest that any effort to address racism is racism itself. Doesn’t that concern you at all? Doesn’t this legislation say that racism can’t be discussed at all?

No, not at all. I would argue just the opposite. It should be discussed but not in the military. If you’re looking at critical race theory, and you look at how it evolved, and what the intent was, I think you find it to be much different than just studying racism. Critical race theory, in my opinion, is revisionist and trying to say that everything that happened in America was based on race. I don’t believe that one iota.

You voted against the “Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019.” The bill modified and reauthorized through FY 2024 programs and activities that seek to prevent and respond to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking. Why did you vote no?

You know, it’s easy to take a title of a bill and just say, “How could you vote against something like that?” If you look at the substance of this bill, you’ll find that it did just about the opposite of what it was intended to do. I’ll be glad to get you more specifics on exactly why we voted against that. My staff and I studied that very diligently.

[Rep. Carter’s staff later said: H.R. 1585 was not a clean reauthorization of VAWA and included a number of problematic provisions, including the promotion of “alternative justice responses,” an unproven method that could force a victim to confront their abuser face-to-face; tying grant funding to a policy that discourages the use of bench warrants, eliminating a powerful tool that prosecutors use to protect victims of domestic violence; and, increasing the number of misdemeanor crimes that would deny 2nd Amendment rights, even prohibiting firearm possession under certain situations without due process.]

You voted against a bill that requires the Veterans Administration to automatically enroll vets who are eligible for health care into the agency’s health care system. Why did you vote no?

We talked about it at length in a meeting with the minority whip, Steve Scalise, and also at the House Republican conference. It was very controversial. Some in our conference voted for it. Some voted against it because essentially, it would have enrolled people automatically and would have led to a lot more cost in the VA program. In fact, we have forums every year to encourage veterans and to educate them as to what is available to them. So, it isn’t that we’re trying to cut costs in any sense. It’s simply that — my staff will get back with you on exactly what our thought process was on this. But this was, again, very controversial.

[Rep. Carter’s staff later said: H.R. 4673, the EVEST Act, would have a detrimental impact on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ wait times, funding, staffing, and would saddle out grandchildren with billions of dollars in debt. The Biden administration has even acknowledged concerns with the bill in their Statement of Administration policy, stating, “There may be challenges implementing this bill as drafted, and the Administration looks forward to working with Congress on how best to operationalize its objective.”]

You voted against the Biden administration’s infrastructure bill, calling it a “Trojan horse.” It meant $8 million in funding for the Georgia Ports Authority. Yet none of the state’s Republican U.S. House members were among the 13 GOP members that voted for it, right. Why?

Only 9% of it went to true infrastructure — what we would consider to be infrastructure — by “we,” I mean people in the 1st District — consider infrastructure — that is, roads, bridges, airports, seaports, broadband. Only 9% went to that. The rest of it went towards Green New Deal projects that I simply cannot support. I think it was a total waste of money. Am I in favor of Georgia ports? I would submit my record on that. Over the years, no one could argue that.


Concerns about climate change and the environment seem to cut across party lines here in Coastal Georgia. You serve on the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis but refuse to call it that. Instead, you call it the “House Select Committee on Climate Change.” Why?

People have different definitions of “crisis.” I do believe in climate change. I’ve made that clear. I believe that the climate is changing, I do believe that man has an impact on that. I believe that it’s cyclical, that it happens cyclically, it happens naturally. I do believe that man has an impact on it. We do need to decrease our carbon emissions.

I’m all in favor of adaptation, mitigation, and innovation. I’ve made it clear throughout the process. In fact, not only am I a member of that select committee, I advocated to be a member of that committee because I felt very strongly that the representative of Georgia’s entire coast should be on that committee. And that’s why I lobbied to be in that committee.

I’m also a member of the Conservative Climate Caucus. I just got back from Brussels, from a meeting with the European Union about what they’re doing and to see what they’re doing in the way of climate change. I was honored last year by Georgia Clean Energy as the Conservative Energy Advocate of the Year. I’m very proud of that. I think my record on climate change and my record on the environment is a good record. Yes, they are those who believe that I should do even more and that we should do even more, but I would make the argument that we’re doing—

But refusing to call the select committee by its proper name? Why?

It’s my way to protest what I think is a partisan select committee. I don’t think [Illinois Democrat] Kathy Castor, the chair of the committee, has done a good job of including Republicans. I think she’s gone too far with it.


Before I ask you about the Republican Party, do you have any reaction to the leak last night [May 2] of Justice Alito’s draft decision on Roe v. Wade?

We saw it last night. We got a text last night. Let’s wait and see how it works. It’s a draft.

[Rep. Carter later added: “This leak is a serious breach of trust that undermines the sanctity of the Supreme Court. We cannot allow fear and intimidation to sway the opinion of our Justices, who are fulfilling their constitutional duty to protect life. I do not subscribe to Washington Democrats’ extreme belief that babies should be able to be killed up to the moment of birth, and I look forward to the states, not unelected judges, being able to make this decision for themselves.”]

You’re an influential member of the Republican Party. You’re deputy chairman of the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee. You’ve already announced your intention to run for the chairmanship of the Budget Committee, if Republicans, as expected, gain control of the House this November.

In the short term, the Republican Party’s prospects appear bright. Inflation, immigration are issues that appear to work in your favor. You appear likely to take back the House and have a chance to do the same in the Senate.

At the same time, false claims about the 2020 election still preoccupy the party. Donald Trump, the party’s de facto leader, continues to insist that the election was stolen. He has said that if he runs in 2024 and is elected, he’ll pardon whoever is prosecuted for Jan. 6. According to a March poll, 65% of Georgia’s Republican primary voters agree with him.

Are you concerned that with this turmoil in your party, the GOP risks losing credibility and trust of all but its most extreme members?

I don’t think so. Because I think the party is bigger than any one person. Look, this is about policies. Elections have consequences. Policies have consequences. We’re suffering the consequences right now of this administration, the Biden administration. We see runaway inflation. We see crime in our cities. We see a southern border. It’s atrocious. These are all the results of the policies of this administration. So, what is the Republican Party about? It’s about conservative policies and that’s what we have to keep in mind.

Recently, we heard the man likely to be the next House majority leader, Kevin McCarthy, contradicting his public statements on Trump and Jan. 6. On Jan. 10, 2021, he blamed Trump for the Capitol riot and suggested that some GOP lawmakers were inciting violence and should be kicked off social media platforms. Despite that ABC quoted you as saying, “Kevin McCarthy is a great leader and will be a great speaker.” The party has these other things going on.

We do, we do. As far as what Kevin McCarthy said behind closed doors and what he said —

There’s a tape recording.

I understand that. Kevin has made it clear that what he said was the different scenarios. He went over the different scenarios of what could happen as a result of what happened on January 6, which as you know, I’ve condemned since day one, since minute one. It’s one of the worst things I’ve ever seen happen in our country. But look, we’re getting prepared. We have our Commitment to America, task forces that are meeting to talk about legislation that we can introduce in the first 90 days, five or six different task forces, including health care, big tech, and the economy. I’m a member of the big tech task force.

U.S. Rep. Earl L. “Buddy” Carter poses with then-President Donald Trump on Air Force One. Credit: buddycarter.house.gov

You’ve been a big supporter of Donald Trump. Before Herschel Walker announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat, is it true that you went to Mar a Lago to ask his endorsement for your own bid to run for that seat?

I have never been to Mar a Lago, but I have been to Trump Towers. It is true that I did meet with him.

Did you ask the former president for his endorsement?

We talked about what was going to happen. What he told me was let’s see what Herschel does and then we’ll talk again. We saw what Herschel did, so there was no need to talk again.

The political analyst Charlie Cook calls you a “Main Street Republican.” You’ve been described as a “Trump Republican.” You aren’t a member of the Freedom Caucus. What kind of Republican are you?

I don’t know that I’m any kind of Republican. I’m just a conservative.

What does that mean to you?

I have conservative values. Let me explain to you why I’m running for chair of the Budget Committee. I think that will answer your question. I tell you this not to be boastful, but instead to let you know how serious I am. I’m very serious about this.

I’ve got six grandchildren, and we are $30 trillion dollars in debt. I tell the joke all the time. My grandson is six years old. The first complete sentence he ever put together was when he was three years old. He looked at me and said, “We’re how much in debt?”

I mean, can you imagine this is intergenerational theft that we’re talking about here! $30 trillion! The fourth largest line item in our budget right now is the interest on our debt, and it will surpass in just a few years what we’re spending on defense. We’ve got to be concerned about the reserve currency.

It isn’t only Democrats who have practiced deficit spending and run up the debt.

Let me be perfectly clear about this: Democrats and Republicans are both responsible for this. Absolutely. We all campaign on the “need to balance the budget” and the “need to do something about our national debt.” And what happens? We get to Washington, D.C., and we don’t do a damn thing. We just keep spending. Republicans are just as guilty as Democrats are. We have got to get serious about this.

But I want to tell you another story. And again, I don’t tell you this to be boastful, but just to show you how serious I am about debt. I opened my business on November 21, 1988. I borrowed $100,000. That was a lot of money back then. I set as my goal to retire my debt. I did that. Then I retired my mortgage. I haven’t owed anyone any money since 1994. I don’t say that to be boastful. I say it to tell you how serious I am about debt. The two greatest threats to our country right now are China and our debt. We’ve got to address both of those.


Our politics these days feature a lot of strong language. I want to ask you about some of yours. You describe Biden as waging a “war on parents,” a “war on American energy,” and a “war on fossil fuels,” which is in turn is a “war on your hard-earned pay checks.” There are a lot of personal attacks. At a speech last month, you quoted Newt Gingrich as saying Kamala Harris is the “dumbest vice president we’ve ever had.”

That’s what Newt said.

But you quoted him approvingly.

Right.

You’ve also described Warnock as “awful” and “terrible.” You use a lot of labels — “radical left,” “liberal socialist,” “woke corporations.” First, do you agree that our politics are polarized?

I’d agree.

It’s strong stuff to call Harris “dumb” and call Warnock “awful,” even though you’re working with him to keep open Savannah’s Combat Readiness Training Center open.

Yes, it is.

So why use this language? What are you doing to bridge the divides in our politics? I know it’s politics, but it’s—

I understand, but it’s politics. It’s just the nature of the beast and that’s unfortunate. But I disagree with Raphael Warnock. In particular, I’m flabbergasted, I just find it baffling, that a man of the cloth, a preacher, could support abortion. I just do not understand that for the life of me.

What does it mean to be a “socialist” or a “liberal socialist” or have a “socialist agenda” in 2022?

I think you only have to look as far as the left wing of the Democratic Party to find that definition. You find that in a lot of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle who are going to—

Give an example.

An example of—

What is a “socialist” or “liberal socialist” — what does it mean to have a socialist agenda in a country where the federal government, for instance, pays farm subsidies and has Medicare and Medicaid — programs that were once called “socialist”?

I think that what it means is that they’re opposed to capitalism. They’re opposed to what we stand for in this country and what our forefathers stood for and what our forefathers gave their lives for and fought for. And that is for the right to freedom and liberty. Now, all of a sudden, they want the government to control everything. And I’m just not in favor of that at all.

But you’re not against farm subsidies, are you?

That’s just one example.

Stacey Abrams is labeled a “liberal socialist,” and she’s a millionaire. She’s a good capitalist, right?

Yes, and I question how she became a millionaire so quick. I served with Stacey in the state house, and she wasn’t a millionaire then. She owed taxes then.


In your nearly three decades in public life, you’ve been a city councilman, a mayor, a state representative, a state senator, and now a congressman in Washington, what’s your proudest accomplishment?

It has been an honor, obviously, to serve in all of these capacities. But I’m really proud of what we accomplished in the city of Pooler. I mean, look at it now! It was a team effort. And all of us had a lot to do with it. I had a lot to do with it, but I’m really proud of what we did.

Who or what has been your biggest inspiration?

My biggest inspiration was my Dad. My grandfather was a sharecropper. He didn’t own property. He just worked the land. I can remember my Dad taking us down a dirt road in his hometown in Cobbtown and saying we used to live here, used to live there. They just used to live wherever the land that they worked was. That’s what my grandfather did. And then my father came to town and got a job at what was then known as the Union Bag paper mill, on the Savannah River — now known as International Paper — just celebrated 51 years, as a matter of fact — I remember him telling me, “When I got that job, I took every penny from my pocket, bought gas for my car, drove around with the windows rolled down, and just said, ‘I got a job at Union Bag!” He was just so happy to have a job. He worked shift work. He worked hard. He provided for my sister and I, for our family.

I was the first one to graduate from college, not just from my immediate family but from my whole extended family. I left home the day I turned 18. It wasn’t like “I’m outta here.” It just so happened it was the day I turned 18. I swore up and down I’d never come back. Of course, the first thing I did when I graduated from college was come straight back. That five years I was gone to pharmacy school were the five years my Dad became the smartest man I ever met.

Was he alive to see you sworn into Congress?

Yes. He just passed last July 25. He was 83 years old. He lived a good life. We were very blessed. Mentally, he was sharp as a tack up until the last week. His body just gave out on him. He worked in a paper mill. Back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, you can imagine what they were breathing. It’s better now, but back then, holy cow, who knows what they were breathing.

He must have been proud of you.

I think he was. I hope he was. He was an inspiration to me. I just always wanted to do my best. I don’t know what that is. But I just want to do it.

This story reflects updates from Rep. Carter’s staff that arrived after publication and had been requested at the time of the interview.

Craig Nelson is a former international correspondent for The Associated Press, the Sydney (Australia) Morning-Herald, Cox Newspapers and The Wall Street Journal. He also served as foreign editor for The...

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