The Tide - notes in the ebb and flow of news

Move over, Herschel and Raphael. Move over Brian and Stacey.

Coastal Georgia takes center stage today, as the candidates for the region’s seat in U.S. Congress — Republican incumbent Buddy Carter and Democratic challenger Wade Herring — square off for the first of two, one-hour debates starting Tuesday at 4:15 p.m. at the Atlanta Press Club. It will be live-streamed only.

Tuesday’s debate on Georgia Public Broadcasting will feature questions posed by Margaret Coker, The Current’s editor in chief, and Will Peebles, government reporter for the Savannah Morning News. The candidates will face off again on Wednesday in a live studio debate at 7 p.m. hosted by Savannah’s WTOC-TV.

Carter, the four-term congressman and former Pooler mayor, is endorsed by former President Donald Trump and benefits from a strongly Republican-leaning district.

In the current campaign, the confident Carter has seldom, if ever, referred to Herring by name. Herring, however, has put on his boxing gloves.

In a new 30-second television ad released last week, he dubs Carter, a licensed pharmacist, “Big Pharma’s Favorite Son.” The ad says Carter “made a fortune as pharmacy owner” then received campaign donations from pharmaceutical interests to help protect the industry’s profits.

The allegations aren’t new: Accusations of doing the pharmaceutical industry’s bidding at the expense of consumers have trailed Carter since he was elected to Congress in 2015. But fresh or not, the allegations may not be easy for him to ignore on the stage with Herring.

Herring, on the other hand, will have to explain how he — someone who has spent a career as a corporate lawyer and never held public office — could do better representing Coastal Georgia voters than the experienced Carter.

The debates also could prove illuminating if the candidates are forced to answer uncomfortable questions — a contrast to the customary stump appearances, campaign jingles, and questions from friendly news outlets.

On the campaign trail, Carter has lambasted the Biden administration, promoted the GOP’s “Commitment to America,” and touted his ambition to become the chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee if, as he predicts, Republicans flip the chamber in next month’s midterm elections.

Yet Carter, like House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, has not explained how a Republican-led House would implement the “Commitment to America” and its goal of security and a strong economy.

And in plugging his zeal to cut federal spending and win over fellow Republicans to his candidacy for the chairmanship, Carter hasn’t indicated whether other large government expenditures, including the FY2022 Defense Department budget of $1.94 trillion or the omnibus farm bill of $428 billion over five years, would face scrutiny as Social Security and Medicare.

Carter has joined calls to reduce spending on Social Security and Medicare. The Republicans’ “main focus has got to be on nondiscretionary — it’s got to be on entitlements,” he told Bloomberg News last week.

Finally, we’ll see in the debates how each candidate seeks to portray the other as “extremist” and out of touch with Coastal Georgia. Who succeeds?

Stay tuned.

The Tide brings observations and notes from The Current’s staff.

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...