Republicans seeking Georgia congressional seat debate limits on abortion and immigration


ATLANTA (AP) — Brian Jack sought to make a Sunday debate among Republican candidates for an open Georgia congressional seat all about his close ties to former President Donald Trump, while the other contenders ignored Trump’s endorsement of Jack.

Five Republicans running for their party’s nomination in Georgia’s 3rd Congressional District met in an Atlanta Press Club debate. Besides Jack, who was Trump’s political director during his administration and worked for then-U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, they included former state senators Mike Crane and Mike Dugan, former state Rep. Philip Singleton and party activist Jim Bennett.

They’re seeking to replace Republican U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson, who is stepping down. The district hugs the Alabama border from Carrollton to Columbus and swings east into the Atlanta suburbs of Newnan and Peachtree City.

Jack repeatedly referenced his work in the Trump administration, promising that in Congress he would continue that work.

“To sell myself, I think that I will look at the record of accomplishment and success that we had and we delivered in that administration,” Jack said.

Others largely passed on the chance to attack Jack, although Crane suggested that McCarthy is the one trying to anoint Jack, asking voters who should choose their representative.

“Do you want to take responsibility for that vote or do you want to let Washington, D.C., insiders do what they’ve done for the last several cycles, and that is choose the next representative for the 3rd District?” Crane asked.

But attacks on Jack, the fundraising leader in the race, were mostly muted. Crane, Bennett and Singleton staked out more conservative positions, with each saying they would join the Freedom Caucus if elected.

Singleton was often at odds with GOP leadership during his time in the state House, attacking then-Speaker David Ralston’s leadership, with top Republicans then drawing Singleton into a majority Democratic district. Singleton, though, said he’s “not an oppositional guy.”

“You go and you fight for the principles that you believe in, you stand for,” Singleton said. “I’m not someone that fights against people. I fight for good policy.”

When asked about whether human embryos should have the same rights as people, Jack echoed Trump’s position that restrictions on reprodutive rights should be left to the states. Dugan noted he voted for Georgia’s current abortion restrictions, which ban abortions after fetal cardiac activity is detected. That’s typically after about six weeks, often before a woman knows she is pregnant.

But Dugan said restriction of in vitro fertilization was “a deeper question,” not saying clearly how he would vote.

The other three, though, voiced no doubts about implementing a legal standard that could lead to a total ban on abortion in Georgia and a ban on in vitro fertilization as currently practiced.

“I’m against recreational abortion,” Bennett said. “I believe that life does exist from the moment of conception. There’s no wiggle room for me.”

All of the candidates, in a show of hands, said they believed Trump was the rightful winner of Georgia’s 16 electoral votes in 2020, despite no reliable evidence to contradict Democrat Joe Biden’s win. Several said they believed Republican-backed changes to Georgia’s election laws since then made them more at ease, but Bennett attacked the continued use of Dominion ballot marking devices, echoing a common belief among Republican activists that all voting machines should be distrusted.

All of the candidates voiced support for more restrictions on immigration, with several including Jack saying they support mass deportations of people who have entered the country illegally. Jack said he would have voted against the recent foreign aid package to Ukraine, Israel and others until he was satisfied on border security.

Dugan said he believed Republicans were right to reject a proposed bill on border security that the Biden administration had backed.

“I don’t think anybody trusted Joe Biden to secure our southern border,” Dugan said.

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