Georgia Secretary of State Raffensperger defeats Trump-backed rival

ATLANTA — Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who famously refused then-President Donald Trump’s entreaties to “find” enough votes to flip the results of the state’s presidential votes in 2020, won reelection on Tuesday, delivering a stinging rebuke to the former president.

Raffensperger had more than 52% of the vote as of Wednesday morning, putting him over the 50% threshold needed to avoid a runoff against his Trump-endorsed challenger, U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, who had about 33%.

“I’m claiming victory,” Raffensperger told a small group of enthusiastic supporters shortly before midnight. “There’s not enough votes out there to change [the result]. Who would have thunk it?”

Brad Raffensperger and his wife, Tricia, stand and smile near others.
Brad Raffensperger, center, and his wife, Tricia, at an election night party on Tuesday in Peachtree Corners, Ga. (Ben Gray/AP) (AP)

More pointedly, Raffensperger attributed his victory to his stand against Trump’s claims about voter fraud. Only a year ago, he noted, most pundits had proclaimed his chances for reelection “hopeless.” But even as he was receiving death threats, Raffensperger fought back.

“My thinking was the vast majority of Georgians are looking for honest people for elected office,” he said. “Standing for the truth, and not buckling under pressure, is what people want.” When he was finished, an emotional Raffensperger embraced his wife, Tricia, as supporters loudly cheered.

Raffensperger’s comeback is the last thing many in the state had expected. Trump had railed at him in the aftermath of the 2020 election, calling him an “enemy of the people” and later endorsing Hice, who had backed Trump's false claims about election fraud. Trump spread repeated conspiracy theories claiming he had actually won the state of Georgia, which was narrowly carried by Joe Biden.

But Raffensperger stood his ground, writing a 10-page letter to Congress detailing piece by piece why Trump’s claims about the Georgia election results didn’t hold up — a position that one of his supporters attending an election night party on Tuesday called “the most courageous act of a Georgia politician in my lifetime.”

Rep. Jody Hice speaks into microphones at an outdoor podium with a plaque that reads House Freedom Caucus.
Rep. Jody Hice at a Capitol Hill news conference held by the House Freedom Caucus on July 29, 2021. (Andrew Harnik/AP) (AP)

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who similarly rejected Trump’s false narrative about the 2020 election, easily defeated his own Trump-backed challenger, former Sen. David Perdue.

Earlier in the evening, a chipper Raffensperger expressed confidence he would prevail. But he told reporters he was fully prepared for a possible monthlong runoff campaign. “I’ve been in more runoffs than anybody else in Georgia politics,” he told reporters, pointing out that he had prevailed in runoff bids ranging from a local city council race to his 2018 victory to become secretary of state.

But while the results may spare him the ordeal of a costly runoff, his time in the spotlight is far from over. He is expected to be the star witness in a grand jury investigation being conducted by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis into Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results. Willis had held off calling witnesses before the grand jury during the primary election. But multiple state officials are bracing for a flurry of subpoenas in the next days and weeks — and Raffensperger is widely viewed as potentially the most critical witness of all, given that Trump’s efforts culminated in an hourlong phone call to him on Jan. 3, 2021, which was secretly taped by Raffensperger’s office and later leaked to the news media.

“We’re prepared to testify when and if we’re called,” he said.