Savannah-based congressman attended UGA game as Irma targeted district

Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga. leaves a House Republican Conference meeting on Capitol Hill on July 28, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

By Tamar Hallerman and Greg Bluestein

WASHINGTON – As Hurricane Irma barreled toward the Southeast last weekend, the congressman representing Georgia’s coastal region was 900 miles away, watching Georgia’s football team edge out Notre Dame in Indiana.

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler, was one of thousands of Bulldog fans to flood Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend on Saturday for the first-in-a-generation matchup, even as his 1st Congressional District prepared for one of the strongest storms ever recorded in the Atlantic.

“It was awesome,” the UGA grad said about the game on Wednesday. “That’s such a tough place to go into and win and for us to win like that, it was just awesome.”

Many Georgians took unplanned trips while under mandatory evacuation orders from Gov. Nathan Deal in the days leading up to the historic storm. But the optics of Carter’s travels raise questions about his preparations and response to the monstrous hurricane.

Carter’s office disputed the suggestion that the lawmaker was anything but fully engaged in the lead-up to the storm and in the days since.

“I, as well as my office, remained in contact with officials at every level, emergency coordinators and first responders, and constituents throughout preparations for and now recovery from Hurricane Irma,” Carter said in a written statement later on Wednesday.

The second-term lawmaker returned to Georgia on Sunday evening, he said, just as the storm was making landfall in Florida. It took even more time for him to return home to the shore.

The storm’s full fury hit Georgia on Monday, and it caused historic flooding along the coast. Hundreds of thousands of coastal residents lost power, and sea water flooded River Street in downtown Savannah. Nearby Tybee Island was inaccessible, as was St. Simons Island further down the coast.

Deal said it was the first time a governor declared a state of emergency in all of Georgia’s 159 counties.

Carter said he returned to his district “as soon as I could” and that he was on “one of the first flights to get back down there.” Some of Carter’s constituents were not able to return to their homes until as late as Tuesday.

“The most important point for me to be there is after the fact,” Carter said. “That’s when we need the help, particularly the federal help. The emergency personnel, they’re doing their work, and I only get in the way when I’m trying to be there before they get to do their part.”

Since the Irma menaced the Southeast, Carter has become one of the most vocal advocates for Irma recovery efforts in Congress.

In an emailed statement after the AJC’s initial interview, Carter outlined what he has done in response to the storm:

“I, as well as my office, remained in contact with officials at every level, emergency coordinators and first responders, and constituents throughout preparations for and now recovery from Hurricane Irma. In preparation for the storm, my office contacted every county in the First District to ensure we were as prepared as possible after learning lessons from Hurricane Matthew response. That contact continued through a mandatory evacuation and will remain constant until we have fully recovered from this storm.  I have traveled the district to survey damage, meet with emergency officials, and ensure the federal government is providing what is necessary for the people of the First District.

“I have visited the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, Westlake Apartments, and the areas hit hardest like St. Marys where I met with local officials and emergency response teams. I have also distributed critical information to constituents before and after the storm as well as maintained a Hurricane Irma web page to ensure constituents have the information they need.”

Since the storm, Carter co-authored two letters to President Donald Trump requesting that the administration unlock federal aid for local victims of the storm, and on Wednesday he asked the IRS for tax relief for Georgians impacted by Irma.

Carter’s office also tweeted out photos of him surveying local damage from a helicopter with the Georgia National Guard and meeting with officials from the Chatham County Emergency Management Agency in Savannah.

Carter said Congress will also need to soon step up to approve more recovery money.

The $15 billion in aid lawmakers initially approved for Hurricane Harvey and Irma recovery last week “helps,” Carter said Wednesday, “but it’s only the beginning.”

“This should not be political at all,” he said. “When your home is flooded, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Republican or a Democrat.”

Carter is not the only Georgia politician to face questions about his whereabouts while storms struck the region. Gov. Nathan Deal attracted attention for attending a state tourism gala and posing for photos with actors dressed as Gone with the Wind characters while an oncoming snowstorm brought Atlanta to its knees.

Reader Comments 3

38 comments
YellowDogYahkee
YellowDogYahkee

I am one of Mr Carter's constituents and I don't fault him for his attendance at the game - on Wednesday we had no idea of where Irma was headed and we are used to false alarms on the coast. 

What I do have a problem with is Carter's inattention to his district on a day-to-day basis.  We see him at the business events - Chamber of Commerce and the like- and certainly he attends all of the party's big glad-handing events. But those in the trenches say they never see him. He apparently doesn't know or care that the battered women's shelters, feeding programs, clinics, CAP programs even exist.  Except perhaps when he is looking for places to cut the Federal budget.

mgunter
mgunter

Subscriptions still declining? Get out of that Metro Atlanta bubble and you will see that th rest of th state could care less about your left leaning dribble!

TrueBlueDem
TrueBlueDem

I see that the Buddy Carter staffers are burning up the responses tonight. Worried about your jobs?

mgunter
mgunter

Yet another AJC hatchet job on. Conservative !!!

TrueBlueDem
TrueBlueDem

Tell the several hundred thousand folks in Buddy Carter's district who still don't have electricity that you are so glad that Buddy Carter had an Awesome Time at the UGA football game in South Bend, safely 800 miles away from the storm.

MtSL
MtSL

@TrueBlueDem So he's penalized for evacuating to somewhere where he had electricity and could help his district? How would him actually being there during the storm have helped one single bit? Or, is the problem that he evacuated and had fun. Many others evacuated and Atlanta made them welcome, did what we could so they would have fun and enjoy the time they were away. They got a break and will now go back rested and with energy to face the tasks ahead. I see that as a benefit.


Mike1735
Mike1735

What a non-story. Report on things that matter. Do not attempt to play got'ya !

gemmy19
gemmy19

Had it been a Dem you would have been spitting on the screen with outrage. You know it's true. Calling for resignment. So hypocritical are you 🏃 repugs.

USMC2841
USMC2841

Lets look at this closer.  

1) One would probably plan this trip, complete with lodging, well in advance of the pending storm.

2) No one had any idea where the storm would hit when he left town.

3) The GOVERNOR of the Georgia ordered EVACUATIONS.

4)  He would have had to leave and most certainly had accommodations elsewhere.

5)  The AJC will make complete ar$e$ or themselves in an attempt to besmirch anyone with an R after their name.


TrueBlueDem
TrueBlueDem

USMC2841...you are WRONG. The hurricane forecasters put Irma making a direct hit on coastal Georgia on Friday, when Buddy Carter was flying into Idiananapolis on a lobbyist's jet plane. Carter should have said "please take me to Savannah"...but no, he wanted to be around the other jock sniffers that like to be near the UGA football team. Buddy Carter disgraced himself and showed his real identity by his actions.

gemmy19
gemmy19

Always have to blame the media for your inadequacies and blunders...

independentiii
independentiii

This guy continues to show he is nothing but a real big d-bag.  How many examples does it take for voters to finally wise up - that the person with an R beside their name on the ballot doesn't automatically mean 'vote for me'.

Especially people like Carter.

DC Dawg
DC Dawg

Tropical Storm Irma actually hit SW Georgia and passed directly through Congressman Sanford Bishop's (D-GA-2) district. The center of the storm was within 10 miles of Albany, Georgia, not Savannah. I find it interesting there is not an article featuring Congressman Bishop having to defend where he was at the time. Since all 159 Georgia counties were in a declared state of emergency, why not ask all 16 members of the Georgia Congressional Delegation, including the Democrats, to defend where they were? That might actually create at least some semblance of fairness.

gemmy19
gemmy19

Since you seem to know it all why don't you tell us where all your repugs were. After that you can tell us about the Dems. That only seems fair.

PTC DAWG1
PTC DAWG1

What was he supposed to do?  Stand on River St and direct traffic?

gemmy19
gemmy19

If necessary since you are the party of family values.

72DCSD99
72DCSD99

How exactly would him being in his district at the time of the approaching storm have changed anything? He was there when it hit.  That's what's important, is it not?  The governor had declared the emergency and told people to leave.  What was this guy going to do?  Go from house to house and make people go?  This is another ambush story that means squat.  You can look at Trump not being at every emergency beforehand.  Or Obama or Bush or .. The explanation is simple.  Right there in the byline; "Greg Bluestein."

USMC2841
USMC2841

@72DCSD99 When you realize the media are democrat operatives with bylines it all makes sense.

gemmy19
gemmy19

Could that be the reason why no one with any sense or emotions wants to be a repug?

ColleenSanders
ColleenSanders

It's what this man does routinely that I disapprove of most. He cares not a whit for his struggling constituents. Instead, he answers  only to those who subsidize his coffers for re-election...understandable given that his single goal is to remain in office until he can retire on the best public welfare plan in the universe. His inane responses to my correspondence are created by a staff member who populates them with lengthy paragraphs from a library of baloney, all totally without substance. Maybe we're better off when he dashes off to excotic places far away from us. Phony sincerity is always transparent, Mr. Congressman!

This is a non-story. Nothing there.

TrueBlueDem
TrueBlueDem

Buddy Carter has proven to be eager to join the corruption of Washing, DC. A pharmacist by trade, he shamelessly raises hundreds of thousands of dollars from his pals in the pharmaceutical industry and simultaneously pushes through and champions anything big pharma tells him to do. He has a basic contempt for the voters who sent him to D.C. because he thinks they are stupid and won't figure out that he is so corrupt. Sad but true.

72DCSD99
72DCSD99

@TrueBlueDem And this deflection has exactly what to do with the article.  Your screen name sums it up.

TrueBlueDem
TrueBlueDem

I see D.C. In your screen name...so I assume you are a Swamp Inhabitant?

Harvey P.
Harvey P.

Can you say:  "Former Savannah based congressman"

cyadra
cyadra

@Harvey P. People in Savannah are too stupid to vote him out. Really stupid.

thialand
thialand

Good for the AJC!  The article clearly shows that Rep. Carter was able to represent his district at UGA football game at Notre Dame.  His attendance showed the State of Indiana the pride GA has in its premiere public university.  He then returned to his district as the hurricane approached.  Good for the AJC for reporting that Carter cares enough about his district to be able to do both.  


Unless one infers from the article that Carter was wrong to go to ND and should have stayed in his district.  If the latter, the depth to which the AJC will go for a non-story is bottomless.  

JK1951
JK1951

If it had been a democrat President playing golf the AJC wouldn't have mentioned it.

okguy2937
okguy2937

@JK1951 There are not enough Democrats in the Georgia House to notice

weetamoe
weetamoe

Disgraceful that he did not stand on the shore and command the storm to cease. Obama would have done that. That was one of the promises he made during his presidential campaign. Why didn't the AJC contact him and ask him to come force those rising waters to recede? Goodness gracious, he did not even go to Ft. Lauderdale to tell the looters to cut it out.

gemmy19
gemmy19

President Obama is out of office so why are you bringing him into this? We are talking about a GA congressman. However, had the president been still in office he would have addressed it differently because he cared. Unlike you phony psychotic repugs.

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