composite Herring Carter

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter enters his two debates with his Democratic challenger Wade Herring as a confident candidate.

In a recent newsletter to constituents, Coastal Georgia’s four-term Republican congressman described a recent interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in which he laid out his plans to run for chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee when, as he hopes, Republicans take over the U.S. House of Representatives in next month’s midterm elections.

  • US HOUSE DISTRICT 1 DEBATE: 4:15 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 18, online at sponsored by the Atlanta Press Club

Clearly, it’s a self-assured candidate that talks so openly about his post-reelection plans. It’s also a savvy one.

In proclaiming his ambition to head the Budget Committee, the 65-year-old pharmacist from Pooler is asking Coastal Georgian voters, in so many words: Why would you vote out an incumbent who is poised to assume such a lofty perch in Washington and deliver the goods to Coastal Georgia?

Still, in Herring, a 63-year-old Savannah attorney, Carter faces his most formidable and well-funded general election opponent since first running for Congress in 2014. Herring’s campaign has been clever, too.

Herring has drawn national attention and Gen Z buzz with a campaign TikTok video dubbing him the “chillest dude in America.” 

Herring also has demonstrated a command of facts and policies that Carter is unaccustomed to seeing in previous opponents. In a debate, that could prove unnerving to Carter who appears often on Fox News, NewsMax and other conservative, right-of-center media outlets.

Citing scheduling difficulties or political bias, the incumbent did not appear with Herring in at least three candidate forums to which he was invited, including a Coastal Georgia veterans’ group, the League of Women Voters of Coastal Georgia and the Darien-McIntosh County Chamber of Commerce.

Debate strategies

Statements by the two candidates preview their talking points for when they meet in Atlanta and Savannah next week.

Asked by The Current what he plans to stress in the debates, Carter said, “I’m focused on continuing to deliver results for the people of the First District and on my commitment to them: an economy that’s strong; a nation that is safe; a future built of freedom; and a government that’s accountable.”

Replied Herring: “Carter’s policy and voting record are out of step and harmful to the people of this District. On October 18th and 19th, I’m going to tell the truth about who Buddy Carter really is.”

Without a legislative record to criticize, expect Carter to tie Herring to the Biden administration, inflation, and crime; to promote the Republican Party’s “Commitment to America;” and to inveigh against the Washington “swamp.”

Expect Herring, in turn, to portray the incumbent as Exhibit A of the self-same swamp. Carter was 10th wealthiest member of the House in the 116th Congress, with an estimated net worth, based on his May 2019 financial disclosures, of $66,464,062, up from an average net worth of $20,811,530 in 2015, according to Open Secrets, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit research organization that tracks money in politics.

Candidates clash over prescription drug prices

Last week the candidates showed deep policy differences on a major topic: prices for prescription medicine.

At a drugstore in midtown Savannah, Carter lambasted pharmacy benefit managers — third-party administrators of prescription drug programs that are primarily responsible for processing and paying prescription drug claims.

Carter, a licensed pharmacist, says PBMs rob patients blind by artificially spiking prescription drug prices without providing any real value to consumers. “It’s time we pulled the curtains back on these insidious actors,” Carter said in his weekly newsletter.

Herring accused Carter of being a “big pharma lobbyist disguised as a U.S. representative” who will “stop at nothing to make sure you are paying far more than you have to for your prescription drugs.”

Weeks earlier, Herring noted, Carter had said on Fox Business that if the GOP retakes control of the House of Representatives in the midterm elections, he would work to undo the measures to lower prescription drug prices that were contained in the Inflation Reduction Act and signed into law by President Biden in August.

The IRA authorizes Medicare for the first time to negotiate the prices of some high-cost prescription drugs with pharmaceutical companies, puts an annual $2,000 limit on how much Part D prescription drug plan members will have to pay out of pocket for their medications, and levies tax penalties on drugmakers that increase product prices by more than the rate of inflation. 

The new law also caps the cost of Medicare-covered insulin at $35 a month in 2023 and eliminates out-of-pocket costs for most vaccines under Medicare.

Carter’s efforts to nullify Georgia’s vote in the 2020 presidential vote spurred Herring to declare his candidacy for the First District seat. But it remains to be seen whether the challenger addresses Carter’s frequent references to former President Donald Trump to rally votes.

In a district where Trump defeated Joe Biden by 12% of the vote in 2020, Carter isn’t hiding his association with Trump under a bushel. He has tweeted out photos of himself alongside the former president, and in a Sept. 12 fundraising letter described himself “one of the President’s top surrogates in Georgia.”

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...