Brad Raffensperger will win Georgia’s Republican primary election for secretary of state, staving off a primary challenger backed by former President Donald Trump, NBC News projected.
Raffensperger will defeat U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., whom Trump endorsed in a bid to unseat the official who has overseen the state’s elections since 2019.
Raffensperger was poised to win a majority of the vote in Tuesday’s primary, avoiding a runoff election against Hice in late June.
The former president has repeatedly attacked Raffensperger, along with Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, for rebuffing his efforts to overturn President Joe Biden‘s victory in the Peach State in the 2020 presidential election. Both Raffensperger and Kemp notched convincing wins Tuesday even though they drew the former president’s ire, according to NBC.
Throughout the primary campaign, Hice echoed Trump’s false claims that the 2020 presidential election was marred by widespread voter fraud. Trump’s endorsement of loyalists willing to embrace his falsehoods about the 2020 election has raised fears about how the candidates would handle future election results if they are voted into office.
In a January 2021 phone call, Trump urged Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to flip Georgia’s election outcome. That call is now part of a criminal investigation.
Former Sen. David Perdue, whom Trump backed in a failed primary bid to oust Kemp, has also spread claims about election fraud. Reviews of ballots conducted by state and federal officials found no evidence of widespread voter fraud; William Barr, Trump’s attorney general at the time, came to the same conclusion. Dozens of lawsuits filed by Trump and his allies failed to change any state’s election results.
The primary races in Georgia also marked the biggest test to date of Trump’s enduring influence over the Republican Party. Trump has touted the fact that most of the candidates he endorsed in the 2022 election cycle have won their primaries, though many of those races were not competitive.
Fifteen months after his single term in the White House, the former president has retained his status as the de facto leader of the GOP and is suggesting he could run for president again in 2024. But Trump’s grip on the party’s base, which once seemed unshakeable, may be showing signs of weakening, as his efforts to exact political revenge on Kemp and Raffensperger fell flat.
Many Republican primary candidates have tried to appeal to the party’s base by talking up their pro-Trump credentials, even if the former president did not endorse them. GOP hopefuls in many cases have sought Trump’s favor by embracing the falsehood that the election was stolen from him, raising the prospect that a wave of candidates who spread election conspiracies could take federal and state office next year.
The primary elections will set the table for the November midterms, when Republicans hope to win majority control of the House and Senate. Democrats are fighting uphill: The president’s party tends to underperform in the midterm elections, and the lead-up to the primaries has been marked in part by high inflation and low approval ratings for Biden.