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Trump backs a challenger to Georgia’s election leader.

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Trump backs a challenger to Georgia's election leader.
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Trump backs a challenger to Georgia's election leader.

Trump backs a challenger to Georgia’s election leader.

 

Former President Donald Trump backed a conservative Georgia congressman in his attempt to unseat the Republican secretary of state, who declined to help reverse the election results in November.

Rep. Jody Hice, a Trump acolyte and tea party favorite, is the first major challenger to Brad Raffensperger since the secretary of state certified President Joe Biden’s narrow win in Georgia and denied Trump’s unfounded accusations of fraud.

Trump’s endorsement is his most overt act of retaliation against those he holds responsible for his defeat, and it reaffirms his hold on the Republican Party.

In a tweet, Trump said, “Jody has been a steadfast warrior for conservative Georgia ideals and is a staunch ally of the America First agenda.” “Unlike Georgia’s new Secretary of State, Jody leads from the front with honesty. Jody has my complete confidence in her ability to fight for Free, Fair, and Secure Elections in Georgia, in accordance with our beloved United States Constitution.”

Raffensperger’s representative refused to comment.

Hice did not mention Trump in his announcement, but he has previously stated that he expects Trump’s support and has echoed Trump’s rhetoric on Raffensperger.

“What Brad Raffensperger did was build holes in the legitimacy of our elections, which I wholeheartedly believe individuals exploited in 2020,” Hice said in a statement Monday, citing no facts to contradict Georgia’s three statewide ballot counts of nearly 5 million votes. “Every Georgian, and indeed every American, has the right to be outraged by our Secretary of State’s conduct and, at the same time, inaction,” Hice added.

Trump has made it known that he intends to go after Raffensperger and Republican Gov. Brian Kemp for their roles in ensuring Biden’s win.

“I’ll be here in a year and a half running against your governor and your mad secretary of state,” Trump said at a rally in Georgia on Jan. 4, the day before Democrats won control of the Senate in two runoff elections.

Kemp and Raffensperger both said they were merely following state election law and carrying out their responsibilities.

Right-wing commentators praised Monday’s events right away.

Debbie Dooley, an early tea party activist and Trump ally who is loyal to Hice, said, “The establishment really doesn’t understand how influential Trump is with the base, but they will.” “We knew Raffensperger was gone, and Jody has the ability to enthrall the base and collect funds. This is a significant task.”

Kemp has yet to face a primary heavyweight competitor.

Former Rep. Doug Collins is seen by some Trump supporters as the perfect challenger. Others loyal to Collins, one of Trump’s most high-profile House supporters during impeachment hearings, claim he is more likely to run for Senate again after his failed special election campaign last year, which was won by Democrat Sen. Raphael Warnock.

Collins was Trump’s nominee for the Senate seat left vacant by Republican Johnny Isakson’s retirement in 2019. Kemp, on the other hand, chose Kelly Loeffler. Last November, Collins placed third in a jungle primary behind Warnock and Loeffler, before Warnock won the January runoff.

Hice, like Collins, has kept a low profile in Washington since his election in 2014, but the 60-year-old has been a staunch Trump supporter. Last fall, he was one of a slew of Republican officials in Georgia who relentlessly promoted Trump’s false accusations of voter fraud. Even after a pro-Trump mob violently attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, he backed a lawsuit brought by Texas against Georgia and other swing states in the United States Supreme Court, attempting to reverse Biden’s win — a suit the high court dismissed — and he objected to the certification of Electoral College votes.

Raffensperger and Kemp have been bothered by Trump’s wrath.

Kemp received Trump’s support in a tense Republican governor’s primary in 2018 and has never openly criticized the president. He also said recently that if Trump ran for President again in 2024, he would support him. Raffensperger has taken a more aggressive stance, claiming that the election was credible and fair in national media interviews last fall. He wrote an op-ed in which he said he had been “thrown under the bus” by a president he had voted for. A Raffensperger aide expected the president’s rhetoric would lead to violence weeks before the Capitol insurgency. Kemp and Raffensperger have sought, cautiously, to cater to the Republican base by pushing for reforms to the state’s election law since then. In particular, the two men favor replacing the existing signature-match requirement with a voter identification requirement for absentee voting. However, some Republican lawmakers want to go even further, repealing Georgia’s no-excuse absentee voting rule, limiting weekend early voting in some counties, and eliminating compulsory voter registration.

Raffensperger and Kemp have become more coy about their positions on the more general measures in public, while the incumbent secretary of state has continued to tout the legitimacy of absentee voting and the popularity of automatic registration.

Despite his criticism of Raffensperger, Hice said only that he is “encouraged to see the General Assembly taking it upon themselves to solve some of the obvious problems in our elections.”

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