By Justin Glawe
TALKING to Rep. Buddy Carter is an exercise in understanding an alternate reality filled with the profound contradictions of life as a Republican — states should decide abortion, but not election rules. The government shouldn’t get in the way of life-saving prescription drugs, but mothers whose lives are threatened by pregnancy should have to give birth. Drugs are causing crime as their purveyors fight for economic territory, but they’re also possibly being given away for free to your children on Halloween. Herschel Walker shouldn’t be judged for paying for a woman’s abortion, but women who want to have the procedure aren’t considering God’s sacred blessing of life.
The 1st Congressional District representative, who is running for re-election on Nov. 8 against Democrat Wade Herring, speaks in a language that may be unfamiliar to many Savannahians. His dialect is filled with obscure right-wing references and talking points that may be familiar to his fellow Republicans and those who make their living in media or politics, but for many Savannahians, Carter speaks in a foreign tongue.
Nov. 8 will be Carter’s third chance to head back to Congress as representative of the very district in which he was raised. If elected, he identified a variety of issues he’ll focus on: the rising threat of an economically dominant China, the national debt, and education (not funding it, of course, but defending it from alleged attacks by liberal bogeymen) were at the top of Carter’s list.
Carter’s answers to the Savannahian’s questions have been edited for length and clarity.
What are your legislative goals that will make life better for voters in the 1st District?
First of all, in our conference, we’ve identified the three greatest challenges to our country as being China, our debt and education, and we want to address those challenges. China, obviously, is a threat, we know that, China is not our friend, not our ally and is our adversary. China is our enemy, and that’s a strong word, but they are. They’re stealing our intellectual property, they’re trying to overtake us economically, and we have to address that. Our debt now, just this week, passed $31 trillion. This is intergenerational theft. We cannot leave that kind of hole for our children and our grandchildren and our grandchildren’s children to dig out of.
And then education, which we know — parents are being kept away from having input into their children’s education. Being labelled as domestic terrorists because they go to a school board meeting? That’s ridiculous. That’s why we want to have a parent’s bill of rights, so that they will have the opportunity to be involved in their children’s education as they should.
When you’re in the majority party you get the first 10 bills and bill numbers, so we’ll have HR 1 through HR 10 when we take over. Our speaker-to-be Kevin McCarthy has already announced that HR 1 will be to repeal the 87,000 IRS agents that are being proposed to be hired to scrutinize Americans. We’re going to do away with that, we’re going to repeal that. But you know, when I’m in the district, what I’m hearing from people is inflation, the price of gas, the price of groceries, and crime. They’re concerned about crime, and they’re concerned about the drug crisis. The drug problem is directly related to the porous southern border.
Fact-check: The overly-simplified assertion that the government labeled parents who attend school board meetings as “domestic terrorists” is a common right-wing talking point that emerged in late 2021. That’s when the FBI created a “threat tag” to monitor events at school boards across the country, which had become the subject of harassment, threats and protests over COVID policies and false beliefs that children were being taught critical race theory. (A Reuters report in February documented harassment against school board members in 15 states, including death threats.)
Republicans have seized on a report that showed how the IRS would use an increase in funding to bolster its depleting workforce with 87,000 workers — not 87,000 new agents as Republicans have claimed, who Carter and others have deceptively insinuated will audit working class Americans.
Politically, Savannah is a blueberry in a bowl of tomato soup. How do you convince liberal and Democratic voters in Savannah and other places in the first district to vote for you?
This is my home, this is where I’ve lived all of my life and where I intend to live the rest of my life. You can imagine what an honor it is to represent the area you grew up in. Seventy percent of all Americans think they’re not heading in the right direction, and that’s because we’ve had one party rule this whole time. Democrats have been in charge of the House, the Senate and the White House. Over two-thirds of the people are dissastified with the way the Democrats are leading us. That’s why they want a change.
I don’t care if you’re a Republican or a Democrat, inflation hurts. Inflation with this administration started at 1.4 percent and now it’s at 8.3 percent? That is hurting people. That’s why we need a change in policy and a change in direction. I also would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I am the most bipartisan member of the Georgia delegation and I have the record to prove it. I was the lead Republican sponsor on legislation to honor my good friend, John Lewis, one of my political mentors, and I was also involved in the bipartisan mental health legislation. I would submit to you that I have worked in a bipartisan fashion.
Full context: While Carter is correct that a historic 70 percent of all Americans think the country is headed in the wrong direction, according to a January NBC News poll, his statement assumes that Democrats who believe this will switch parties to vote for Republicans. More than 60 percent of Democrats said in July that they would prefer a different candidate to Biden in 2024 — not that they would vote for a Republican.
On the note of bipartisanship, you were one of 147 Republicans who voted to decertify the results of the 2020 election, which, I think, was objectively a very partisan decision on your part. Can you explain your decision to do that, and if your vote stands on its merits, do you believe the election was free and fair and Joe Biden is the rightfully elected president?
I’ve made it clear since the very beginning that Joe Biden was the duly elected president. I committed early on that I was going to try to find common ground to move this country forward. Unfortunately this administration has worked in a very partisan fashion.
The second thing that I point out is that, on day one, minute one, I condemned what happened on Jan. 6. It was not right, it was wrong. Those people should be arrested, they should be given due process — and I’m concerned that some of them have not been given due process — and they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. However, our constitution did not change that night, and our constitution as I understand it, says that any changes in the states [to voting rules and procedures] should be done by the legislature, not by the executive branch, not by the judicial branch. In Arizona and Pennsylvania, significant changes were made by the judicial branch. In Georgia, significant changes were made by the executive branch. That’s why I objected. I was ready to object before we had all the destruction and the protests, and I continued to object because the constitution did not change and that’s what I believe.
Full context: Some January 6 defendants have been held in pre-trial detention for more than a year as COVID delays and backlogs of cases in the federal court system have delayed their cases from reaching a courtroom. (Sen. Rand Paul has been a vocal critic of these delays in the “right to due process.”) Carter’s assertion that some January 6 defendants “have not been given due process” is a gross oversimplification.
When Carter chalks his vote to decertify the 2020 election results to a constitutional matter, he is talking about supporting an argument from Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) that only state legislatures can make rules about voting— not courts, secretaries of state, or governors — many of which made or adjusted voting rules due to the pandemic. The argument that states can’t stipulate for themselves what rules they make regarding elections and voting obviously flies in the face of longtime Republican arguments for state’s rights, but has found many backers in Congress who, like Carter, used its legal reasoning as a premise to decertify the results of the 2020 election.
Obviously we have an election coming up in November, and I don’t think that any of this erosion of faith in our elections on both sides of the aisle has gone away. What is your message heading into these Midterms and should people trust the outcome of the election in November?
I would respectfully disagree. I do believe that people have more confidence in elections now because of what the Georgia legislature did in passing the Election Integrity Act [SB 202]. I think they’ve made cheating harder and voting easier. I think that they’ve given Georgians confidence that all legal votes are going to be counted and no illegal votes are going to be counted. As an example of that, if you look at the turnout during the primary, we had record numbers of people who voted.
Full context: Claims of widespread voter fraud — “illegal votes,” as Carter calls it — in Georgia are wildly overblown. Through investigations conducted by the Republican secretary of state, no systemic voter fraud was found in the 2020 election, which was the political capital used by state Republicans to pass SB 202. Even the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, has documented just 20 instances of voter fraud in Georgia since 1997.
You’ve also introduced several bills that deal with abortion, most recently the Pharmacists Bill of Rights bill. You have another deal that loosens restrictions so the DEA can approve prescription drugs more quickly, and you said in arguing for that bill that those restrictions are “a classic example of a federal bureaucracy infringing on a patient’s livelihood.” How is that not the case for a mother whose life is threatened by her pregnancy? Should she not be able to choose for her own livelihood to terminate that pregnancy?
I believe that life is precious and should be protected. I’m not going to get caught up in trying to be specific and picking apart who is more deserving of abortion. The most recent pro-life bill that I signed onto is the [Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act]. That bill will protect children at 15 weeks gestation and that’s important, because what we’ve learned through scientific advances is that at six weeks a baby has eyes and eye sockets and eyebrows, and sucks their thumb, and at 12 weeks, a baby can experience excruciating pain. That has led us to understand just what we’re talking about here. And as far as the comparison to the other bill, when you’re talking about abortion, abortion is not healthcare. Healthcare saves lives, abortion ends live. My opponent, he’s the extremist here, and the Democrats are. They want to be able to yank a baby out of the womb a day before birth. That’s ridiculous. That’s extremism.
Fact-check: It’s not clear where Carter got his assertion that babies can experience pain at 12 weeks of pregnancy, but in response to a 2006 bill that would have required pain medication to be administered during some abortions, the National Institutes of Health said that the ability to experience pain likely doesn’t occur until 26 weeks gestation. So, the goal posts seem to be moving on this matter. In the 2006 bill, House Republicans included language that put a baby’s ability to experience pain at 20 weeks. Now, according to Carter and other Republicans arguing for more restrictive abortion bills under the guise of protecting babies and unborn fetuses, it’s more like 12 to 15 weeks.
Carter’s claim the Herring and Democrats support extremely late-term abortions may be accurate, but the framing is absurd. Such procedures are fairly rare — about 10,000 of the country’s roughly 900,000 annual abortions occur after 20 weeks, data shows — and occur for a variety of reasons, including not having access to abortions earlier in term, often a result of Republicans policies limiting that access. At no point has any Democrat suggested they support pulling out a living child from a womb and then aborting it.
The reason that I ask that is because you supported the Sanctity of Human Life Act, which provides no exceptions for abortions in the case or rape, incense or the life of the mother. So, in those instances, where you do stand on their ability to choose whether or not to terminate that pregnancy?
Let’s keep in mind what [Dobbs vs. Jackson, the Supreme Court decision overruling Roe vs. Wade] did. Dobbs said that abortion is not a federal issue and it put it back to the states. It’ll be up to the states to decide these things. That’s what Dobbs vs. Jackson did — it didn’t say that it was ending abortion, it said that it will go back to the states now.
Where do you stand on Herschel Walker in light of the revelations that have come out recently about him paying for a woman’s abortion?
I believe that Herschel Walker will be the next Senator from Georgia. You know, Raphael Warnock has a silver tongue but Herschel Walker has a heart of gold, and that’s what we need. Herschel Walker loves Georgia, and he will do the right thing. I have no reason to question Herschel Walker, and what he has done in his past, that’s not my place to judge him.
You talked about crime and inflation being of high concern for constituents in your district. Can you give us an idea specifically of what you would do to address those issues?
The first thing we’ve got to do is to back the blue. We’ve got to support our police. I’ve had three meetings this week with sheriffs in our district. Obviously they need more resources, but they also need morale boosts. Who would want to be a policeman now? We’ve got to support our police. We also have to make sure that our prosecutors are prosecuting these people who are breaking the law.
What do you see as the issues that drive crime that’s affecting communities, and specifically communities of color? And what are your solutions to address some of those issues?
Right now inflation is driving a lot of our crime. Inflation is hurting people. A big part of the crime problem that we’re having right now is the fentanyl that’s coming across our southern border, and I am so concerned about what’s going to happen on Halloween. Please make sure that your children before they eat any candy, you need to look at it yourself and make sure that it’s not been tampered with. And please don’t take any pill unless you know that it came from a pharmacy.
It is not fentanyl addiction; it is fentanyl poisoning. We’re losing 300 people every day as a result of fentanyl poisoning. We have got to secure that southern border. I’ve been to the southern border five times in the eight years since I’ve been a member of Congress, and I can tell you that it is a disaster. The drugs that are coming into our country are a big part of the [crime] problem right now, so is the economy; that’s why we need to put Republicans back into office.
Full context: When Carter mentions parents checking their children’s candy on Halloween, he is referencing what has become an annual trend story about drugs being found in Halloween candy. This year, those stories have largely stemmed from an August press release from the Drug Enforcement Administration noting that a recent seizure of fentanyl resulted in the discovery of brightly-colored pills that could be “made to look like candy to children and young people.” It’s possible that Carter has never done drugs, because as anyone who has done drugs can tell you, they are rarely given away for free. Still, the “rainbow fentanyl” story has been featured heavily in the usual suspects of local TV news stations, as well as right-wing outlets. Like all stories about Halloween-related panics, this one is more sensationalized fear-mongering than actual fact.