October 18, 2022
Coastal Georgia debates
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 — meet for a one-hour debate starting today at 4:15 p.m. at the Atlanta Press Club.
The debate, which comes a day after the start of early voting in Georgia, will be aired by Georgia Public Broadcasting. The questions will be posed — full disclosure — by Margaret Coker, The Current’s editor in chief and Will Peebles, a reporter for The Savannah Morning News.
Today’s debate will be followed by another between the two candidates tomorrow at 7 p.m. in the studios of Savannah’s WTOC-TV, which will also be broadcast live.
The Coastal Georgia debates could prove revealing, not least because the confident Carter has seldom, if ever, referred to Herring by name during the campaign. The former Savannah attorney, however, has put on the gloves, The Current’s Craig Nelson writes.
In a new 30-second television ad released last week, Herring 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. On stage with Herring, that allegation may not be easy for Carter to sidestep.
The debates also could prove illuminating if the candidates are forced to answer questions they don’t want to answer — a contrast to the stump appearances, campaign jingles, and questions from friendly news outlets where they can dodge and sloganeer.
How will Herring handle the issue of inflation? What does Carter’s stated willingness to put Social Security and Medicare on the budget chopping block mean for Coastal Georgians?
Finally, each candidate will seek to portray the other as “extremist” and out of touch with Coastal Georgia. Who succeeds? Stay tuned.
Crime, Voting and a Maverick
After two campaigns against each other, Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams know each other very well, which is why their back-and-forth can seem overly scripted. Still, the debate last night among the Republican incumbent Kemp, the Democratic challenger Abrams and Libertarian candidate Shane Hazel covered useful ground, notably:
When Chuck Williams of WRBL-TV noted that Abrams was “behind in almost every poll,” the Democrat insisted that the polls were a snapshot of a narrow spectrum of Georgians and didn’t reflect the excitement across Georgia about her candidacy.
Kemp pressed his anti-crime agenda. “More boots on the ground” to go after violent criminals and street gangs, he said. We’ve done the same thing in Columbus. We’ve done it in Macon. We’ve done it in Savannah, and we’ll do it wherever we’re needed.”
Replied Abrams: Street gangs are one part of the problem; weakened gun laws that have flooded Georgia streets with guns is another. Later, she said, “I believe that we can protect the Second Amendment and protect second graders at the exact same time.”
Georgia’s election system is a hot-button topic, with Abrams continually forced to respond to allegations that (ironically) like Donald Trump and MAGA Republicans, she refuses to acknowledge the outcome of election — namely, hers against Kemp in 2018.
In the debate, she sought to put the issue to rest, citing her concession speech that year as proof that she had accepted defeat but spelling out what she said were voting irregularities in the balloting. She added: “I will always acknowledge the outcome of elections, but I will never deny access to every voter because that is the responsibility of every American to defend the right to vote.”
Shane Hazel, the Libertarian candidate played the maverick, with assertions that are likely to attract votes from Georgians fed up with both major political parties. “We believe in freedom. . . . It is always forcing coercion at the point of a gun from the Democrats and Republicans,” said Hazel, who called for the abolition of property taxes. Such declarations will keep both Kemp and Abrams operatives awake, worried that Hazel will succeed in his vow to force a runoff.
For months, Republican officials feared what would happen when Herschel Walker finally took to the stage to debate.
“They know that every time he gets close to a microphone, it’s a CSI murder scene. It’s a murder of the language and a murder of policy,” former state agricultural commissioner Gary Black, one of Walker’s rivals for the party’s Senate nomination, told The Current in April.
It turns out they need not have worried, not least because the candidate himself had set the bar for success so low (“I’m just this country boy. I’m not that smart”) prior to his debate with the Democratic incumbent, Raphael Warnock.
There were also other, less obvious reasons to be sanguine about Walker’s prospects before Friday evening’s debate, noted The Current’s managing editor, Susan Catron, who was in the audience for Friday’s debate. Walker is, after all, was a renowned collegiate and professional athlete, and knows how to get up for a big game. When the pressure’s on, he’s coachable, as reinforcements rushed from Washington to his foundering campaign in July no doubt discovered.
Then there was the fact that beforehand, it was all too clear that despite the sensational revelations of Walker’s alleged payment for a former girlfriend’s abortion, Warnock’s a preacher and disinclined to delve into the allegations publicly.
So, it was no surprise that the Republican nominee held his own on Friday, even emerging victorious, when measured against low expectations and even deeper fears of the party faithful. The GOP stood behind him and officials and the rank-and-file alike were relieved, if not giddy. “He looked as senatorial to me as I have seen anyone ever look,” US Rep. Buddy Carter gushed.
When it was all over, the two candidates were running much as they did before the extravaganza in Savannah: neck-and-neck.
Here’s a link to watch the Savannah debate, and another to the Atlanta Press Club/GPB debate on Sunday night. Walker didn’t attend, but candidates questioned the empty podium that was there in his place.
‘No, you’re not’
The Current’s Mary Landers and Jake Shore were on hand along with Catron for “Debate Night in America.” Notable takes from their reporting:
One woman in the pro-Walker cheering section outside the JW Marriott said she supported the candidate in large part because of his anti-abortion stance. She was not swayed by allegations he had paid for a girlfriend to have one abortion and pressured her to have another. “I don’t think there’s any truth to that,” she said.
Savannah State University student Sarita Smith wore a sky-blue t-shirt that proclaimed: “Climate Voters Unite!” Pre-debate, Smith said she’d be listening for a climate change question to the candidates. “Savannah has an issue with flooding in minority communities so I would like to look at that issue and what we can do to solve it,” she said. Unfortunately, there was no question.
At a Walker watch party at The Clyde, there were especially loud groans whenever Warnock mentioned faith, his congregation. and his church. When Warnock declared himself “a man of faith,” one person in the crowd yelled, “No you’re not!”
Republican Buddy Carter touts his post-election ambitions for a powerful Capitol Hill post, as Democratic challenger Wade Herring basks in “chillest dude in America” aura.
Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and his Republican opponent Herschel Walker faced off in a contentious debate in Savannah Friday, the first and likely the only televised debate between the two in this pivotal race.
An inside look at the debate, from the prep, audience, media room and aftermath.
While the survey also asked the horse-race questions about the marquee political candidates running for office in November, it went deeper to see what’s motivating the state’s voters and what’s moving the needle — or not.
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