Republicans scramble to counter calls to boycott Georgia runoffs
Calls by attorneys Lin Wood and Sydney Powell for Georgia voters to boycott two crucial Senate runoffs in January are sparking panic among Republicans, who fear that the duo’s remarks could cost them much-needed votes.
Wood and Powell, a former lawyer for the Trump campaign, have waged a series of legal battles in recent weeks challenging the results of the 2020 presidential election. But they turned heads on Wednesday when they urged Trump’s supporters at a rally in Alpharetta, Ga., not to vote in the January runoffs to protest the state’s elections process.
Their remarks have set off a scramble among GOP officials, operatives and other prominent Republicans tasked with turning out Trump’s loyal base of supporters for GOP Sens. Kelly Loeffler (Ga.) and David Perdue (Ga.) in January.
“Lin Wood and Sidney Powell are totally destructive,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) tweeted Thursday morning. “Every Georgia conservative who cares about America MUST vote in the runoff. Their dont vote strategy will cripple America.”
The fallout from Wood and Powell’s rally adds another element of uncertainty to the GOP’s runoff efforts. Some Republicans have already expressed concern that Trump’s sustained attacks on Georgia’s elections process could serve to drive down turnout in January.
At their rally on Wednesday, Powell and Wood touted false claims that the presidential election was “rigged” against Trump and urged a crowd of the president’s supporters to boycott the Jan. 5 Senate runoffs unless top Georgia officials implement sweeping changes to the state’s voting system to guard against what they say is widespread fraud.
Federal and state investigators have uncovered no evidence of voter fraud in the 2020 election.
Wood also turned his ire on Loeffler and Perdue, who are both facing competitive runoff elections against well-funded Democrats in January that will determine the balance of power in the Senate in 2021 and beyond.
He urged voters to withhold support from the two Republican incumbents unless they demand that Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) call a special session of the state General Assembly to effectively overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s win in Georgia.
“If Kelly Loeffler wants your vote, if David Perdue wants your vote, they’ve got to earn it. They’ve got to demand – publicly, repeatedly, consistently,” Wood said. “Brian Kemp, call a special session of the Georgia legislature, and if they do not do it, if Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue do not do it, they have not earned your vote.”
While the remarks from Wood and Powell largely echoed Trump’s own baseless assertions of widespread voter fraud and systemic irregularities in the 2020 election, they also flew in the face of the president’s efforts to rally his supporters around Loeffler and Perdue.
The president is set to travel to Georgia on Saturday on behalf of Loeffler and Perdue, and both he and his aides have urged supporters to turn out in January, warning that a lackluster showing for the two Georgia Republicans could cost the GOP its Senate majority.
“Control of the U.S. Senate is on the line and @realDonaldTrump will be rallying Republicans in Georgia this Saturday,” Tim Murtaugh, the communications director for Trump’s campaign, tweeted on Thursday. “It’s imperative that we send @Perduesenate and @KLoeffler back to the Senate and elect other Republicans!”
Republicans currently have the upper hand in the battle for the Senate. The Nov. 3 elections ensured that they will enter the next Congress with at least 50 seats to Democrats’ 48. But with Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris set to take the White House in January, Democrats need to only win two more seats to gain a controlling vote in the upper chamber.
If Democrats Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock are able to take out Perdue and Loeffler in January, it would effectively give the party full control of the government next year.
Even before her remarks at the Wednesday rally in Alpharetta, Powell has proven to be a divisive figure among Republicans. She served as a key member of Trump’s legal team in the first few weeks after the Nov. 3 election.
But the president’s campaign cut ties with her last month following a series of outrageous claims, including that Kemp and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger had taken payoffs as part of a scheme to manipulate voting equipment.
Some Republicans have also seized on Wood’s voting record in an effort to cast him as an undercover Democrat seeking to undermine the GOP’s chances in Georgia. Trump’s campaign tweeted a link to a story from the far-right news site Breitbart on Wednesday night detailing Wood’s history of donating to Democratic candidates and voting in Democratic primaries.
Gabriel Sterling, the Republican voting systems manager in Georgia who has been critical of Trump in recent days, questioned Wood’s political motives at a news conference at the state Capitol on Wednesday afternoon, pointing to what he said was the attorney’s long “Democrat voting record.”
“Lin Wood, pacing across the stage, said ‘we’re not using machines to vote, we shouldn’t go out and vote for Sen. Loeffler and Perdue,’ ” Sterling said. “I find it interesting that somebody who’s had a Democrat voting record since 2004 is out there telling Republicans not to vote in an election.”
“We encourage all voters to vote in an election,” he added. “Democrat, Republican, independent, green, socialist, you know, libertarian. Whatever party you want to be. Go out and exercise your vote. That’s your right as an American.”
Wood pushed back on the speculation about his political affiliation, saying that he has long considered himself “nonpartisan” but remained loyal to Trump.
Indeed, while Federal Election Commission filings show that Wood donated to both Democrats and Republicans in past years, he gave almost exclusively to Republican candidates and conservative groups throughout the 2020 election cycle.
Among those who received the most money from Wood: a pro-Trump super PAC, the Republican National Committee (RNC) and a joint fundraising committee affiliated with Perdue.