Georgia’s secretary of state is fighting for re-election as Trump’s target
ATLANTE – As former President Donald Trump sought to blame himself for his 2020 election defeat, the Georgian secretary of state became one of his top targets. Now, with a Trump-endorsed challenger in the Republican primary, Brad Raffensperger is fighting to keep his job.
The secretary of state emerged from relative obscurity in the national spotlight when he insisted Georgia’s election had been accurate and safe, and refused to bow to pressure from Trump to overturn the election. Joe Biden’s victory in the state. Raffensperger says he is running for re-election based on his record of integrity as a principled conservative.
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“I’ve shown that I’ll stand tall and make the tough decisions and do what’s right, and that’s what I’m called to do,” he said in a recent interview with the Associated Press.
Months after Raffensperger certified Biden’s victory, U.S. Representative from Georgia Jody Hice, a conservative Trump loyalist and former pastor, announced he would run against Raffensperger in the May 24 Republican primary and quickly won. the approval of the former president. Two others — former Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle and former probate judge and county magistrate TJ Hudson — are also challenging Raffensperger from the right.
It’s no surprise that Raffensperger attracted the main challengers, said Andra Gillespie, professor of political science at Emory University, noting that polls showed many Republican voters in Georgia thought there was fraud. widespread election and questioned the results of the 2020 elections.
“His role in terms of standing up to Trump, while earning him some respect nationally, certainly doesn’t elicit any sort of applause from the Trump wing of the Republican Party in the state,” a- she declared.
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State and federal officials, including Trump’s own attorney general, said there was no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election. But that hasn’t stopped the proliferation of conspiracy theories and false allegations.
Georgia Republicans criticize Raffensberger
Trump endorsed Raffensperger in a general election runoff in 2018. But as Georgia’s presidential votes were counted, recounted, and recounted – and even after the results were certified – the president unleashed his fury. He called the secretary of state an “enemy of the people” and vowed to campaign against him. In a now infamous January 2, 2021 phone call, Trump urged Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to tip the election results in their favour.
But Trump wasn’t the only Republican to turn against Raffensperger. Then-US senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, facing the January 2021 runoff election which they ultimately lost to Democratic opponents, called on the secretary of state to resign. Georgia GOP Party Chairman David Shafer has repeatedly disparaged Raffensperger’s handling of the 2020 election.
Raffensperger pushed back against the narrative that the election was stolen, citing investigations that found no widespread fraud and the numerous unsuccessful lawsuits filed by Trump and his allies.
“Me and all my other friends on the right side of the aisle were disappointed,” Raffensperger said. “But yeah, those are the numbers. President Trump missed.”
Prominent Republicans have continued to criticize Raffensperger, citing a court settlement and emergency election measures put in place due to the pandemic. In a sweeping election overhaul passed last year, Republican lawmakers stripped the secretary of state of his presidency and his right to vote on the State Election Board.
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In Georgia and elsewhere, Raffensperger has also received praise — including from some Democrats — for standing up to the president and other members of his party. But Professor Emory Gillespie noted the law didn’t give him much choice: “Morally, ethically, legally, he did the right thing.”
When voting rights activist and Democratic candidate for Georgia governor Stacey Abrams appeared on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” right after the leaked recording of the call between Trump and Raffensperger in January 2021, she warned against celebrating Raffensperger.
“Lionizing Brad Raffensperger is a bit misguided,” she said. “This man is not defending the rights of voters. He is defending an election he conducted.”
Abrams has often accused Raffensperger and other Republicans of suppressing the franchise, especially for people of color. The secretary of state responded by saying that Democrats’ claims about voter suppression are as harmful as claims by Trump and his supporters that the 2020 election was stolen.
Hice vs. Raffensberger
Although incumbent challengers don’t typically do well in primaries, committed party voters running in such contests might favor Hice, said Charles Bullock, a professor of political science at the University of Georgia.
“The fact that Trump remains a big factor for many Republicans and has put his stamp of approval on a challenger improves Hice’s prospects,” Bullock said.
Hice has raised more money than Raffensperger in recent months, bringing in just over $1 million in the reporting period that ended Jan. 31, compared to $322,000 for Raffensperger. But Hice spent the money faster, ending the period with around $648,000, compared to Raffensperger’s $513,000. Belle Isle, which lost to Raffensperger in the 2018 Republican primary, raised more than $212,000 during the period and had about $112,000 on hand. Hudson reported raising $26,000 and had about $7,500 in the bank.
Raffensperger was not the only Georgian official to draw Trump’s ire for refusing to interfere with the state’s election results. Trump also vowed revenge on Governor Brian Kemp, endorsing former Sen. Perdue in the Republican primary in that race.
But Kemp may be better placed to fend off a Trump-backed challenge by emphasizing economic achievements or other aspects of his job, Gillespie said.
“It’s harder for Brad Raffensperger to run away because elections are his job,” she said. “So if people are furious with the 2020 election results and the way they were handled, he’ll be the one to carry the brunt of those criticisms among Republicans.”
Although the Secretary of State has other responsibilities, including company registration and professional licensing, the role of the Chief Electoral Officer receives the most attention.
Hice, who backed a lawsuit in Texas seeking to overturn Biden’s victory in Georgia and other states and voted against his victory in the Electoral College, embraced unproven claims of voter fraud. He recently told the AP, “I believe if we had an accurate count, I believe Trump won Georgia.”
Raffensperger rejects attacks from people, including his main opponents, who question his handling of the 2020 election: “I stand on truth. They stand on lies. Truth always wins.”
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