By Jill Jordan Sieder and Tammy Joyner
Senior Investigative Journalists
While the governor’s race at the top of the ticket has consumed most voters’ attention, the midterm contests among other would-be statewide officials were lively and hard-fought. The big winner in the down ballot races was Burt Jones, who won the race for lieutenant governor.
Here are the victors and a primer on what they’re now responsible for — from overseeing elections and schools, to prosecuting gangsters and insurance fraud, to monitoring poultry plants and puppies, things that impact your everyday life.
Duties: As the second highest elected official in Georgia and president of the state Senate, the lieutenant governor presides over debate in the Senate chamber and works with advocates to introduce legislation. Georgia’s lieutenant governor has two constitutional responsibilities: to serve as president of the state Senate and to step in if the governor dies or becomes temporarily unable to perform his/her duties. The Senate majority sets the rules for additional powers of the lieutenant governor.
Burt Jones (R)
Background: An oil and insurance executive, Jones has served as a Georgia state senator representing District 25 since January 2013. In the 2022 legislative session he co-sponsored the bipartisan Georgia Behavioral Health and Peace Officer Co-Responder Act, which provides a model for collaboration between behavioral health professionals and law enforcement to act as a team in responding to and de-escalating mental health emergency calls. He also supported the Georgia Constitutional Carry Act, which allows gun owners to carry a firearm without a permit, and two successful health care-related bills to increase postpartum coverage under Medicaid from six months to one year following the end of a pregnancy, and to prohibit state and local governments from mandating COVID-19 vaccine passports.
Jones, who participated in the slate of fake GOP electors in Georgia, unsuccessfully led a pressure campaign on Gov. Kemp to convene a special legislative session to award Georgia’s electors to former President Donald Trump and was stripped of leadership roles in the Georgia Senate in 2021 by fellow Republicans as a result.
Priorities: Creating more high-quality jobs by reducing burdensome regulations, eliminating the state income tax, prioritizing vocational and technical training, and empowering small businesses; cracking down on violent crime; supporting local and state law enforcement officers and increasing funding for first responders; restoring voter confidence by securing elections; increasing transparency and accountability in elections; and investigating any and all instances of voter fraud; improving K-12 and higher education by investing in teachers and students, prioritizing school choice, vocational and technical education, and lowering the cost of post-secondary degrees; enforcing a legal immigration system that puts the lives and livelihoods of hardworking Georgians first.
Notable Quote: “As I travel around the state, nobody’s talking to me about 2020 [presidential election],” said Jones during his live debate with Democrat Charlie Bailey in October, referring to the fake electors controversy. “What they are talking to me about are gas prices, 40-year high inflation, crime that’s going on, and what’s going on in our education system. And that’s what I’ve been focused on.”
Duties: Represents Georgia in all civil cases before any court and in all cases before the Supreme Court of the United States. Provides legal representation of the agencies, officers and employees of state government. Prepares contracts and agreements, prosecutes public corruption cases, and oversees the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.
Chris Carr (R-Incumbent)
Background: A lawyer, Carr has served as Georgia’s attorney general since November 2016. Prior to that, he served as general counsel for the conservative-leaning Georgia Public Policy Foundation, as commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development , and as chief of staff to the late-former Republican U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson.
Priorities: Prosecuting human traffickers and rescuing their victims; interrupting gang activity and prosecuting gang-related crimes; defending Georgia’s Election Integrity law in federal court; beating Stacey Abrams’ claims about voter suppression in the 2018 election; defending Georgia’s “Heartbeat” law banning abortion after six weeks; stopping vaccine and mask mandates; prosecuting corrupt public officials.
Notable Quote: “The job of the attorney general is to enforce the laws of the state of Georgia – period,” Carr said after a campaign speech in August. “If you don’t like the law, you run for the legislature, or in [Jen Jordan’s] case you don’t quit the legislature. That’s how we change the laws. But for the attorney general or a district attorney to say, ‘I disagree with the law, so I won’t enforce it,’ is a dereliction of duty.”
Secretary of State
Duties: Oversees voting, tracks annual corporate filings, administers professional licenses and oversees the state’s securities’ market.
Brad Raffensperger (R-Incumbent)
Background: As the secretary of state, the businessman and civil engineer who lives in Johns Creek is the state’s top election official. He drew national attention in January 2021 when he refused then-President Donald Trump’s insistence to “find” votes that would help Trump overturn the 2020 presidential results in Georgia.
Priorities: Secure, safe and accurate elections and promote strong business policies.
Notable quote: “I will abide by the results of the election — win or lose. It gets down to personal integrity: Accept the will of the people,” Raffensperger said during a Center for Election Innovation and Research news briefing last week.
Commissioner of Agriculture
Duties: Leads and oversees the Georgia Department of Agriculture, which regulates, monitors or assists with the state’s $74 billion agribusiness industry, which includes: Grocery stores, food warehouses, bottling plants, pet dealers and breeders, animal health, gasoline quality, antifreeze, marketing of Georgia agricultural products, pesticides, meat processing plants, seed quality, Vidalia onions, state farmers markets, plant diseases, nurseries and garden centers, fertilizer and lime, potting soil, feed, boll weevil eradication, apiaries, bottled water, and other responsibilities.
Tyler Harper (R )
Background: Harper has served as District 7 state Senator since January 2013. A native of Ocilla, Harper is a 7th-generation south Georgia farmer who runs a peanut, cotton, beef cattle and timber operation. He earned his B.S. in agricultural engineering from the University of Georgia. Harper supports the “Freedom to Farm” bill passed by the Georgia legislature this year, which critics say limits landowners’ ability to sue over noises, smells and other nuisances on farms near their property. He has also supported expansion of gun rights in Georgia.
Priorities: Expand the Georgia Grown program to increase community-based consumption and put more Georgia products on more shelves across the country; fight federal regulations like the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule of the Clean Water Act; work to eliminate unfair trade deals that put producers in Mexico and China ahead of producers in the U.S.. Enhance food safety programs; invest in the next generation of agricultural leaders and technologies; and partner with schools and institutions of higher learning across the state to ensure that a cutting-edge, world-class agricultural education is available to students who want to learn the trade.
Notable quote: “For me, being a farmer is more than just a job — it’s a way of life,” he said. “As Agriculture Commissioner, I will use my background, experience, and record of results to fight for our farmers, the consumer, our conservative values and our way of life here in Georgia.”
Commissioner of Labor
Duties: Administers unemployment benefits and labor regulations, provides an array of employment-related services and oversees labor/workforce data and research.
Bruce Thompson (R)
Background: State senator representing the 14th District. He is an insurance agent and business owner who lives in Cartersville. During his career he has acquired several failing businesses in different fields and turned them around.
Priorities: Modernize the labor department through technology and improve efficiency in the department.
Notable quote: “I’m the only one on the panel with the experience as a business person who has gone in and turned companies around,” Thompson said during a televised October 18 debate.
Commissioner of Insurance
Duties: Regulates rates for auto, health, life and other insurance; regulates insurance companies; investigates insurance fraud and inspects buildings and houses. Serves as the state’s fire marshal.
John King (R-Incumbent)
Background: Current insurance commissioner. Former Doraville police chief who had an extensive law enforcement and military career. First Hispanic statewide official in Georgia history.
Priorities: Prevent insurers from gouging consumers; combat fraud and restore public trust in a department hit by scandal after previous commissioner Jim Beck was charged with and later sent to jail for stealing $2 million from a former employer.
Notable quote: “We’ve gotten this office back on its tracks, focusing on protecting Georgia consumers,” King said during a televised debate on October 17.
State School Superintendent
Duties: Acts as the chief executive officer of the Georgia Department of Education, implements policy decisions approved by the State Board of Education and oversees the state’s K-12 public education system.
Richard Woods – (R) (Incumbent)
Background: Woods has served two terms as state school superintendent. He has 29 years of pre-K through 12th grade experience in public education as a high school teacher for 14 years and in various administrative roles, including principal. Woods received a bachelor’s degree from Kennesaw State University and a master’s degree from Valdosta State University. Woods has collaborated with Gov. Brian Kemp on increasing teacher pay and on reducing standardized testing.
Priorities: Cut bureaucracy so teachers have more time and freedom to teach; improve school safety by increasing school resource officers and mental health resources, better securing facilities and fostering strong relationships between students and educators, state agencies and nonprofits; expand teachers’ salary increases across their entire career, and improve retirement benefits; expand opportunities in fine arts, computer science, recess and play, STEM/STEAM and gifted programs, and Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education to more schools and students.
Notable quote: “We’ve come out of COVID-19 and done well,” said Woods during the October 17 candidate debate in Atlanta. “I’ve been supportive of teachers and making sure they have the time to teach. We have record graduation rates within Georgia and we’re also beating the national average when it comes to SAT and ACT scores.”
Sources: AJC/Atlanta Civic Circle Voter Guide, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Axios Atlanta, Ballotpedia, candidates’ websites, Capital B, Georgia.gov; GPB.org.
Header photo: “Putting Georgians First” Fly-Around Tour with Statewide Candidates on election eve. (credit: Burt Jones for Georgia)
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