ATLANTA – Next year’s election of Secretary of State in Georgia was already shaping up to be a tense and dramatic fight: Outgoing President Brad Raffensperger – who enraged former President Donald J. Trump for refusing to ‘overturn state election results – faces a major challenge from a Trump-endorsed Republican colleague Representative Jody Hice.
Tuesday morning the race got even more interesting with the entry of the first major Democratic candidate, State Representative Bee Nguyen, the daughter of Vietnamese refugees who helped lead the fight against Republican-backed bills. that restrict voting rights in the state.
“Republicans have done everything in their power to silence the voices of voters who have chosen an America that works for all of us, not just some of us,” she said in her video. announcement. “But we will not allow anyone to oppose our right to a free and fair democracy.”
In an interview this week, Ms Nguyen, 39, said Mr Raffensperger deserves credit for standing up to Mr Trump and dismissing his bogus allegations of voter fraud after the November election. But she also noted that since then Mr. Raffensperger had broadly supported the voting rights law passed by the Legislature in March and continued to see himself as a Trump supporter after the former president promulgated his lies. on the elections in Georgia.
“I have been at the forefront of the fight against voter suppression laws in Georgia,” Ms. Nguyen said. “Watching everything unfold in 2020 with the erosion of our democracy, I recognized how essential it is to defend our right to vote.”
She added: “I think Georgians deserve better and can do better.”
Mr. Trump lost Georgia by about 12,000 votes. After the election, he personally addressed pleas to Mr Raffensperger and Governor Brian Kemp, asking the two Republicans to step in and help reverse the results. When they refused, Mr. Trump vowed revenge.
In late March, the former president endorsed Mr. Hice, a pastor and former radio talk show host from Georgia’s 10th Congressional District. “Unlike the current Georgian Secretary of State, Jody leads the way with integrity,” Trump said in a statement.
It’s not the only race in Georgia that Mr. Trump hopes to sway in an attempt to impose retaliation on those he deems disloyal. In January, Mr. Trump vowed to campaign against Mr. Kemp as he sought re-election. Since then, former State Representative Vernon Jones, a former Democrat and staunch Trump supporter, has entered the race, but Mr. Trump has not endorsed it.
On Monday, however, Georgian politicians took note when State Senator Burt Jones, a Republican, tweeted a photo of himself and Mr. Trump meeting at Mr. Trump’s home in Florida. Mr Jones, who did not respond to calls for comment on Monday, comes from a wealthy family and could put his own funds into a statewide race. But if he’s interested in a higher office, he has a number of choices beyond governor, including perhaps jumping into next year’s competition for the US Senate seat held by Democrat Raphael. Warnock.
Ms Nguyen, an abortion rights supporter and critic of what she called Georgia’s “lax” gun laws, may find it difficult to reach out to more conservative voters beyond. his liberal district in metropolitan Atlanta. She first won the seat in December 2017 in a special election to replace fellow Democrat Stacey Abrams, the former minority leader in the House of Representatives who stepped down to ultimately challenge her without success to Mr. Kemp in 2018.
Ms Abrams, who is African-American, may be gearing up to run against Mr Kemp again next year, and if Ms Nguyen can clinch a place in the general election, that will reflect the demographic shift that has helped Democrats like the president. Biden’s score has shaken victories in Georgia in recent months.
In March, Ms Nguyen was among a group of Georgian Asian-American lawmakers who strongly denounced the mass shootings at massage parlors in the Atlanta area in which eight people were killed, including six women from Asian origin.
The race for Georgia’s secretary of state, normally a low-key affair, will be closely watched next year given the state’s slim margins in recent elections and its growing reputation as a key presidential election battleground. .
Mr. Raffensperger finds himself in a frustrating position. A statewide poll in January found he had the highest approval rating of any Republican office holder in the state, the likely result of the bipartisan respect he earned for holding head to Mr. Trump. But Mr Hice has a good chance of overpowering Mr Raffensperger in a GOP primary, given the loyalty of grassroots Republicans to the former president.
Two other Republicans, David Belle Isle, former mayor of the city of Alpharetta, a suburb of Atlanta, and TJ Hudson, a former probate judge, are also in the running.
Daniel Victor contribution to reports.