Updated at 4:10 p.m. Monday
Former President Donald Trump has endorsed northeast Georgia Congressman Jody Hice’s bid to unseat fellow Republican Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in his 2022 reelection.
Raffensperger became a top target of Trump and other Republicans after defending the integrity of the state’s voting system in the 2020 election.
“Our state deserves a leader who steers clear of scandals and focuses on the incredibly important duties of the office,” Hice said in his campaign announcement, released Monday. “If elected, my top priority will be ensuring every Georgian’s legally cast ballot is counted in future elections.”
In his endorsement, Trump called Hice, a staunch Trump ally who represents Georgia’s 10th District, an “outstanding” congressman. “Unlike the current Georgia Secretary of State, Jody leads out front with integrity,” Trump said.
“Few have done more to cynically undermine faith in our election than Jody Hice,” Raffensperger said in a statement. “We saw in January what Georgia voters will do to candidates who use that rhetoric. His recklessness is matched by his fecklessness as a congressman. Georgia Republicans seeking a candidate who’s accomplished nothing now have one.”
Hice has repeated many unproven claims of voter fraud spread by former President Trump, did not vote to certify the 2020 electoral vote counts of Arizona and Pennsylvania and introduced an objection to Georgia’s electoral college vote count, which failed after Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler voted for certification. Hice also came under scrutiny for a now-deleted social media post calling the Jan. 6 rally “our 1776 moment.”
After narrowly losing Georgia in November, Trump constantly questioned the integrity of Georgia’s voting system without evidence. Raffensperger refused to bend to Trump’s pressure to overturn the election. He and other top election officials have consistently maintained there’s no evidence of the widespread fraud Trump has alleged.
Georgia’s two Republican senators at the time, David Perdue and Loeffler, went so far as to call for Raffensperger’s resignation in November without offering evidence.
While many Republican strategists blame Trump’s questioning of the election’s integrity for Perdue and Loeffler’s losses in their high-profile January runoffs, Hice blames Raffensperger.
“When the confidence of the election process is lost, then people don’t show up to vote,” Hice told WDUN radio Monday.
“When you have half a million people drop off between the presidential election and the most important Senate election in the history of our country, that tells you something. Right in the heart of all of that is the disastrous work of our Secretary of State, and it’s for that reason that he needs to be replaced.”
In an essay for National Affairs magazine published Monday, Raffensperger called the 2020 election a “political and constitutional crisis” and said Trump “persuaded many of his supporters — with lots of anger and indignation, but without real evidence — that he was the rightful winner.”
Raffensperger compared Trump’s ongoing battle against his loss with the state’s 2018 gubernatorial race when Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams acknowledged her defeat but also refused to concede.
“We need to come to terms with the scope of the problem, and doing so won’t be comfortable for either party,” Raffensperger wrote. Abrams has strongly rejected this comparison.
Another Georgia Republican, David Belle Isle, has also announced a challenge to Raffensperger, also blaming the secretary of state for the Republicans’ Senate losses. Belle Isle lost the Republican nomination to Raffensperger in 2018.