State Watch

How Brad Raffensperger stood up to Trump

FILE – Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaks during an interview on Oct. 28, 2021, in Atlanta. Georgia takes center stage in Tuesday’s primary elections as Gov. Brian Kemp and Raffensperger try to fight back challengers endorsed by Donald Trump, who is seeking revenge for his 2020 election defeat in the state. (AP Photo/Ron Harris, File)

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) will testify before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riots on Tuesday afternoon in what could be another revelatory hearing on the events leading up to the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Raffensperger, 67, will likely offer insights into how he defied former President Trump’s efforts to pressure him into overturning the 2020 election results in his state.

Fulton County in Georgia convened a special grand jury to investigate the pressure campaign, which centers on a January 2021 phone call in which Trump asked Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to reverse President Biden’s victory in the key swing state.

For resisting Trump, Raffensperger was scorned by Trump allies and seemingly faced an uphill climb in his re-election campaign.

Last month, however, he beat out a Trump-endorsed opponent in the GOP primary for Georgia secretary of state. Raffensberger and Gov. Brian Kemp, another Republican target of Trump’s, both won relatively easily. Raffensberger won 52 percent of the vote compared to 33 percent for Trump’s favored pick, Jody Hice.

Raffensperger was a civil engineer and owner of a design consulting firm called Trillium Structures and a restoration company called Tendon Systems before he ran for public office at the age of 56.

The small business owner threw his hat in the ring for a Johns Creek city council seat in Fulton County in 2011. In an interview with a local The Patch outlet ahead of election day, he expressed his desire for “resolute leadership combined with an optimistic, persevering spirit.”

After serving on the council from 2012 to 2014, Raffensperger won a seat at the Georgia House of Representatives in 2015 to represent Johns Creek with a pro-business stance.

Raffensperger ran for the secretary of state position in 2018. He told The Tifton Gazette he would push to ensure only Americans can vote in elections, bolster election security and get younger people involved in elections.

The 2020 general election went smoothly in Georgia compared to the tricky primaries in June, which were disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. President Biden became the first Democrat to win the state since 1992.

The election was officially certified in early December with Biden winning by 12,670 votes.

As Trump cried foul and repeated his claims of voter fraud, Georgia audited the election results in December in Cobb County, a key county in the election. The state did a statewide hand and machine recount.

In a press release announcing the audit results, Raffensperger said he was “always focused on calling balls and strikes in elections” but “in this case, three strikes against the voter fraud claims and they’re out.”

“This audit disproves the only credible allegations the Trump campaign had against the strength of Georgia’s signature match processes,” the secretary of state said at the time.

In early January, Trump called Raffensperger to pressure him to overturn the results. According to a transcript of the call, Trump told the state officials “I think it’s pretty clear that we won,” and said there were multiple concerns with mystery ballots and dead people voting.

Trump also disagreed with the Cobb County audit, arguing he really wanted an audit of Fulton County. After Raffensperger told him they audited the results in Cobb County because it was the only place they saw potential evidence of fraud, the president pressed him to “find” votes.

“So look. All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have because we won the state,” Trump said.

Raffensperger took a defiant posture in the phone call, telling the president “we don’t agree that you won.”

“We believe that we do have an accurate election,” he said.

Outlets leaked an audio tape of the roughly hour-long phone call, drawing a storm of controversy for Trump, who was wildly seen as pressuring a state election official in an illegal bid to overturn certified results.

The secretary of state did not back down from his belief the election was secure, despite drawing incendiary backlash from Trump’s loyalists. But he did work with Kemp to bolster election security laws in Georgia.

In the past year, Georgia passed two controversial election laws empowering an election police force and creating stricter voter ID requirements, among other changes.

Instead of addressing the 2020 election, Raffensperger neatly courted Republican voters by talking up election security and challenging Democrats’ positions on election laws.

In an interview with Fox News in January, he talked about “secure elections” in Georgia because of the new laws and suggested Congress pass a constitutional amendment that ensures only Americans can vote.

“They go down this rabbit trail that just their far left-wing base believes in any of this stuff. Same-day registration. And they want to do away with photo I.D. You’ll have non-citizens voting the next day,” he said.

In addition to testifying in front of the House panel, Raffensperger also testified in front of the special grand jury in Fulton County.

After his primary victory, Raffensperger mentioned that almost every political pundit had called his chance of winning re-election “hopeless.”

“In my heart of hearts, I don’t think the experts were looking at this the right way,” he said in a May 25 interview. “The vast majority of Georgians are looking for honest people for elected office, someone who will do their job, follow the law and look out for them regardless of the personal cost.”

Tags 2020 election Brad Raffensperger Brad Raffensperger Brian Kemp Donald Trump Fulton County Georgia Jan. 6 Capitol riot Joe Biden

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