Brad Raffensperger, the Georgian secretary of state who thwarted Donald Trump’s efforts to steal the state’s 2020 election, won his Republican primary Tuesday night, issuing a thorough rebuke to the former president who spent the year trying to overthrow it.
NBC, CNN and other major networks projected early Wednesday morning that Raffensperger defeated Rep. Jody Hice, a conservative House member who twice voted against certification of the 2020 congressional election results and received the endorsement of Trump in the race for Secretary of State, and two other candidates.
With more than 95% of the ballots counted, Raffensperger had won around 52% of the votes, just enough to cross the majority threshold necessary to avoid a second round.
He will proceed to a general election in which Democrats who have applauded his efforts to thwart Trump hope to unseat a Republican they still criticize for backing new laws that restrict voting rights and grant the government-controlled Georgia legislature GOP more partisan power over state elections.
Raffensperger’s refusal to “find” nearly 12,000 nonexistent votes to turn President Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia into a victory for Trump has made him the primary target of the former president’s Make America Great Again movement in Georgia. Hice launched his first candidacy following the Jan. 6 uprising on the U.S. Capitol, alleged that Raffensperger had “jeopardized” the Georgia election, and immediately received Trump’s blessing.
Trump has held several rallies in Georgia over the past year, appearing with Hice and other candidates he has endorsed in statewide primary challenges against Georgia’s incumbents, including the former Sen. David Perdue, who sought to unseat GOP Governor Brian Kemp, and John Gordon, who ran against Attorney General Chris Carr.
Early in the race, many Georgia Republicans viewed Raffensperger as particularly vulnerable to a mainline fight, especially that of such a close Trump ally. Hice was a relentless purveyor of the lie that Georgia’s election was riddled with fraud and stolen from the president, despite multiple reviews, audits and investigations finding no evidence to support these claims.
On the morning of Jan. 6, 2021, Hice tweeted that the GOP Congressional effort to nullify the congressional election amounted to a “1776 moment” for the country. He also participated in strategic discussions about how to pressure then-Vice President Mike Pence to reject legitimate electoral college votes in the congressional certification process. He ultimately voted to contest the election results twice on Jan. 6 and was among 147 Republicans who contested the results even after a rioting mob of Trump supporters stormed the Capitol that day.
Democrats and democracy pundits viewed the GOP secretary of state as a crucial fight for the future of the US election and its democracy as a whole, given that a victory for Hice would put him one step away from becoming the most top election official in a key swing. State before the 2024 presidential election.
But unlike other Holocaust deniers who prevailed in recent Republican primaries, Hice failed in Georgia, where voters ultimately rejected the three Trump-backed candidates running against GOP incumbents who helped thwart the former president’s efforts to reverse his electoral defeat in the state. The losses suggest that, at least in Georgia, Trump’s “big lie” about the 2020 election isn’t powerful enough to defeat the trio of candidates who have consistently refuted it.
Hice won counties in Georgia’s 10th congressional district, which he has represented since 2015. But he was torn down in almost every other part of the state, including and especially in metro Atlanta, where Raffensperger racked up huge margins that pushed it through the 50s. % threshold necessary to avoid runoff.
Raffensperger may have benefited from Georgia’s open primary system on Tuesday: In early voting, about 7% of ballots cast in this year’s GOP races were submitted by Georgians who had participated in the Democratic primaries in 2020 , according to an analysis conducted by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. At least some of those voters seemed motivated to thwart Hice and the other Trump-backed candidates, but said they would back the Democrats again in the fall.
“Democrats who want to send a clear message to David Perdue and Donald Trump are voting against all Trump endorsements,” Larry Weiner, a Democrat who voted in the GOP primary, told the Journal-Constitution. “Come November, we’re voting Democrats.”
He may also have prevailed simply because of his inherent advantages as an incumbent, and because other primaries received more attention: a pre-election poll found support for Hice had risen sharply – from 30% to 60% – once voters learned he was Trump’s preference. support, suggesting he might have won had he been able to improve his name identification among Georgia voters ahead of Tuesday’s vote.
The defeat may be significant for Trump’s MAGA movement, but it won’t end the threats Republicans pose to the country’s electoral system: Hice-type candidates who challenged or questioned election results. of 2020 are suing other major battleground states, including Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota and Nevada, where GOP primaries have yet to take place.
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania State Senator Doug Mastriano won the Republican gubernatorial primary in his state last week. Mastriano, who sought to undermine Biden’s victory in Pennsylvania, ferried supporters to Washington on January 6 and was present at the protest that turned into an insurgency that afternoon, would take over a state key ahead of the 2024 election if he wins in November. He would also have the power to nominate a similar, election-denying conspiracy theorist as Pennsylvania’s secretary of state.
Despite his rebuke from Trump in 2020, Raffensperger will likely face a tough re-election fight in November against anyone who emerges from a crowded Democratic primary.
Georgia Democrats are eager to replicate their success from two years ago, when Biden became the first Democratic presidential nominee to win the state since 1992 and that senses. Raphael Warnock (D) and Jon Ossoff (D) prevailed in two second-round contests.
With Warnock and gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams at the top of the ticket, Democrats believe they have a chance to sweep Republicans from key state offices, and they have bet on the race for Secretary of State as way to protect and expand voting rights after Georgia. The GOP-controlled Legislature passed a sweeping new election law that restricted ballot access and created new election-related crimes in 2021.
Raffensperger, who before 2020 supported previous efforts to create new restrictions on voting in Georgia, also supported SB 202, as the new law was known. And he defended it against claims that it will disproportionately impact black voters, Georgians with disabilities and other minority communities that helped boost Democratic wins in 2020.
Democrats see the law, one of the first of more than 30 restrictive laws Republican legislatures passed across the country in the past year, as an extension of the false allegations of fraud that Trump and his allies have made about previous elections, and Democratic candidates up and down. the poll vowed to defeat the Republicans who supported him.
Raffensperger has also refused to make a full break with Trump, despite the fact that his rejection of the former president has led to death threats against his family and other election officials across the state. In an interview with HuffPost last year, Raffensperger did not answer when asked if he would vote for Trump if he ran for president again in 2024.
And though the domestic environment looks poor for Democrats, party voters in Georgia appear motivated: They turned out in large numbers to vote early ahead of Tuesday’s primary, even though the first two races on the party ticket were undisputed.
Suffrage was one of the animating factors for voters who spoke to HuffPost outside Atlanta polling places last week, many of whom were determined to overcome the obstacles SB 202 placed in front of them. them – and to defeat the Republicans, including Raffensperger, who helped create them.