In Georgia, a GOP primary tests the power of a Trump vendetta

Many Republicans declared Mr. Raffensperger almost defeated as soon as he announced he would run for re-election, citing the anger of Mr. Trump and that of many voters. Mr. Raffensperger was censured at a state GOP convention last year. But Mr. Trump has been surprisingly quiet about the race, beyond grouping Mr. Raffensperger with Mr. Kemp in slanderous statements against what he calls the RINOs — Republicans in name only — who run the state.

Sarah Longwell, the founder of the Republican Accountability Project, which led the focus group last week, said Mr Trump’s limited involvement could play a role in some voters’ indecisiveness.

Mr Raffensperger has raised more money than his competitors, courting far-right voters and touting what he calls “true conservative” values. At an event hosted by the Buckhead Young Republicans, Mr Raffensperger discussed the 2020 election but said his office was focused on “the real problem” of preventing non-citizens from voting. Mr. Raffensperger called for changing the state Constitution to bar noncitizens from voting, which state law already prohibits. A state review found no instances of non-citizen voting in 2020.

Mr. Raffensperger acknowledges that his speech did little to appease some Republicans.

“I was never Public Enemy #1. I just think some people weren’t happy with the election results,” he said. “But in this race here, I defer to the goodness of my fellow Georgians who upheld the law, made sure that we followed the Constitution and abided by the law. And that’s all I can do.

The roughly 15 people at the event – ​​mostly conservatives in their twenties – were receptive to his message. While some still had concerns about the election watchdog, they said they appreciated his candor about the ongoing attacks.

“There was nothing anyone else would have done to do anything,” said Bradley Schober, 27, a lawyer who said he had already voted for Mr Raffensperger. “In the end, the guy took as much heat as anyone and came out the other side standing.”

Despite widespread interest in the showdown, less than $1 million was spent on television advertising in the Democratic and Republican primary races for the Georgian secretary of state, according to AdImpact, an ad tracking firm, the candidates trading attacks on the result. of the 2020 presidential election and the integrity of the vote.

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