ATLANTA – Republican State Sen. Burt Jones was an election denier who tried to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia.
Democrat Charlie Bailey is a former prosecutor who was soft on crime.
Those charges leveled by the two major party candidates for lieutenant governor at each other Tuesday dominated a debate streamed by Georgia Public Broadcasting.
Bailey reminded voters of Jones’ role as a “fake elector” in December 2020, part of a team of 16 assembled to provide an alternative to the Democratic presidential electors Georgia voters had chosen the month before when Democrat Joe Biden carried the Peach State over Republican incumbent Donald Trump.
“What you did was un-American and unpatriotic,” Bailey said.
Jones responded that the alternate slate of electors was put together while a number of lawsuits challenging the outcome of the presidential election in Georgia were pending. The slate only was to be activated if the court cases moved forward, he said.
Jones accused Bailey of using the 2020 election dispute to distract voters from the campaign’s real issues.
“[Voters] are talking about gas prices, 40-year-high inflation, crime … and what’s going on in our educational system,” Jones said.
Jones accused Bailey of supporting no-cash bail for criminals at a time crime is on the rise in Georgia and failing to aggressively prosecute criminals during his time as an assistant district attorney in Fulton County.
As an example, Jones cited a 2017 letter from then-Fulton District Attorney Paul Howard suspending Bailey without pay for five days for “conduct unbecoming” an assistant district attorney. The letter didn’t specify the nature of the conduct.
While not responding directly to the suspension, Bailey said he prosecuted hundreds of cases during his time in the D.A.’s office.
“I’m proud of the work I did,” he said. “I stand on my record.”
After being quoted during the Republican primary campaign last spring calling for a total ban on abortion, Jones said Tuesday he supports the “heartbeat” bill the General Assembly passed in 2019 prohibiting the procedure after a fetal heartbeat is detected, typically about six weeks into a pregnancy. The law allows exceptions in the case of rape, incest or “the wellbeing of the mother,” Jones said.
Bailey said he opposes the heartbeat bill.
“The six-week abortion ban is an infringement on the women of Georgia and their right to make their own decisions on health care,” he said.
Bailey said he favors codifying into state law the 1973 Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring abortion a constitutional right.
Jones said he wants to eliminate the state income tax to keep more money with Georgia taxpayers.
“The money is better used in their pockets than by the state or federal government,” he said.
Bailey said he supports legalizing casinos, sports betting, and pari-mutuel betting on horse racing in Georgia and using a portion of the proceeds to increase spending on education. Jones introduced a sports betting bill into the state Senate two years ago.
Libertarian candidate Ryan Graham said the last two occupants of the White House – Trump and Biden – both deserve blame for inflation because of the spending both steered through Congress following the onset of the pandemic.
“The truth is this inflation has been bipartisan,” he said.
Graham said he has drawn support from as many as 8% of voters in some recent polls, making it likely the lieutenant governor’s race won’t be decided until a December runoff.
This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.