Two GOP challengers announce runs against Raffensperger for Secretary of State

ATLANTA — Two Republican challengers have announced their campaigns to run against Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

Rep. Jody Hice has decided against re-running for Georgia’s 10th District in favor of the secretary of state campaign. The Georgia congressman already has the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, who released a statement on Monday.

Former Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle is also running once again. Raffensperger defeated Belle Isle in the 2018 Republican primary runoff.

Both candidates have criticized Raffensperger’s handling of the 2020 investigation.

The secretary of state has stood by his office and said they followed the state’s election laws and investigators found there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud, machine or election management problems.

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Here is the full statement from Hice about his decision to run. His statement does not mention Trump’s endorsement.

“Free and fair elections are the foundation of our country. What Brad Raffensperger did was create cracks in the integrity of our elections, which I wholeheartedly believe individuals took advantage of in 2020. Though I am encouraged to see the General Assembly taking it upon themselves to address some of the glaring issues in our elections, Georgia deserves a Secretary of State who will own the responsibilities of the office. If elected, I will instill confidence in our election process by upholding the Georgia Constitution, enforcing meaningful reform and aggressively pursuing those who commit voter fraud. Every Georgian, in fact every American, has the right to be outraged by the actions and, simultaneously, the inaction of our Secretary of State. Our state deserves a leader who steers clear of scandals and focuses on the incredibly important duties of the office. If elected, my top priority will be ensuring every Georgian’s legally cast ballot is counted in future elections. I am excited about our campaign and I know together we can renew integrity,” Hice said in a press release.

Here is the full statement from Belle Isle on his decision to run.

“I am running for Secretary of State to clean up the mess, secure the mail-in ballot, and restore voter confidence. In the recent elections, we witnessed voter suppression on a massive scale, triggered by voter uncertainty and made worse by the Secretary’s poor decisions, carelessness, and failure to lead. In the Senate runoff, thousands of Georgia voters chose to stay home rather than condone a process that appeared uninterested in the difference between valid votes and invalid votes. Raffensperger single-handedly bargained away our election integrity and skewered the credibility of our mail-in ballots. Then, he looked us in the eye and told us that the 2020 election was the safest, most secure election in our history. It was not, and it’s time to hold the Secretary of State accountable.”

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Trump’s endorsement of Hice marks his most direct attempt at retribution against those he blames for his loss and reaffirms his continued influence over the Republican Party.

Hice didn’t mention Trump in his announcement but has said previously that he expected the former president’s support, and he echoed the president’s rhetoric about Raffensperger.

Trump has long made clear his intentions to target Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp, also a Republican, for their parts in ratifying Biden’s victory.

Hice was among the many Republican officials in Georgia who relentlessly pushed Trump’s false claims of voter fraud last fall.

He endorsed a lawsuit filed by Texas against Georgia and other battleground states seeking to overturn Biden’s victory in the U.S. Supreme Court -- a suit the high court rejected -- and he objected to the certification of Electoral College votes even after a pro-Trump mob violently stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.