Raffensperger defended himself against Trump and won Georgia primary

Raffensperger advanced to the general election, leaving Democrats as the ones forced into a runoff because no candidate won a majority Tuesday. Raffensperger will face the winner of a June 21 Democratic runoff between state Rep. Bee Nguyen and former state Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler.

Hice, who objected to certifying Georgia’s electoral votes in Congress on Jan. 6, 2021, tried to pin the blame for Republican losses on Raffensperger.

He criticized Raffensperger’s decisions during the coronavirus pandemic to mail absentee ballot applications to all active voters, allow ballot drop boxes and settle a lawsuit over standards for absentee ballot signature verification.

Hice’s attacks didn’t stick.

“I am proud of the race we ran and I still believe that renewing integrity in our elections is absolutely critical,” Hice wrote in a message to his supporters Wednesday.

Making trips to Rotary Clubs, local chambers of commerce and county Republican Party meetings, Raffensperger said he put 40,000 miles on his truck traveling across Georgia to make his case to voters.

Raffensperger provided explanations for the 2020 election: No, there weren’t ballots stuffed in suitcases at State Farm Arena. No, there weren’t hordes of dead voters (there were four). Yes, tens of thousands of Republicans decided not to vote for Trump.

“He took the heat. He went from the guy nobody wanted to have lunch with to the guy people voted for,” conservative commentator and radio host Martha Zoller said. “He defended his position and acknowledged things that needed to be fixed, and he fixed them.”

His candidacy got help from Democratic voters who decided to cast Republican ballots so they could oppose Trump’s slate, including Hice. Georgia has open primaries, meaning any registered voter can choose to participate in either party’s primary election.

Going into election day, 7% of early voters in this year’s Republican primary had voted in the Democratic primary two years ago, according to state election data analyzed by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

One crossover voter, Jonathan Herman, said it was important to him to use a Republican ballot to oppose Trump’s agenda in the primary — and then vote for Democrats again in the general election in November.

“Raffensperger has demonstrated that, for all of the concerns I have about him as secretary of state, at least he was a stubborn constitutionalist who wanted to make sure the election was managed fairly,” said Herman, a retired Georgia State University religious studies professor who writes a political blog, Herman’s Toteboard. “Hice seemed to suggest that he’ll find a way to make his side win, and that’s not what you want a fair arbiter of elections to be doing.”

Another factor in Raffensperger’s victory is that Republican voters in Georgia aren’t always rigidly loyal to Trump’s endorsed candidates, said former state Rep. Buzz Brockway, who lost to Raffensperger in the race for secretary of state in 2018.

None of Trump’s four endorsed candidates seeking to unseat incumbent Republicans were successful in Georgia. Four candidates whom Trump endorsed in open races either won outright or advanced to runoffs.

“The people making the most noise are the activists, but there weren’t enough of them to bring down Brad Raffensperger,” Brockway said. “It’s not enough to say that you’re endorsed by Trump. As time went on and there’s distance between now and the 2020 election, people are ready to move on.”

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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