GOP Rep. Jody Hice challenges Raffensperger

Hice enters the race with Trump's backing

A conservative Republican Congressman from eastern Georgia has entered the race for Georgia Secretary of State.

U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, a Republican from Greensboro, announced on Monday that he will challenge embattled Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in next year’s Republican primary. He entered the race with a very powerful endorsement: former President Donald Trump said in a statement that Hice has his “Complete and Total Endorsement.”

A four-term Republican Congressman, Hice is a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus and has parroted the unproven claims from the former President that the 2020 election was fraudulent. He joined several of his House Republican colleagues in objecting to the electoral college results in swing states that voted for President Joe Biden, even after the deadly insurrection attempt at the Capitol.

Trump and his allies have placed a target on Raffensperger, who refused to overturn Georgia’s election results after Biden narrowly won the state. Trump made several pleas to overturn the results, at one time even calling Raffensperger himself to frantically ask him to “find 11,780 votes” so that he could win the state (Biden won Georgia by 11,779 votes). This phone call is now the subject of several investigations.

These attempts, along with several other conspiracy theories, have put Raffensperger and several of his employees on the receiving end of death threats from far-right extremists. Election manager Gabriel Sterling angrily denounced the threats in a December press conference.

A January poll from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that Raffensperger had a 47% approval rating, but his numbers with Democrats were higher than his numbers with voters from his own party.

“The big rub for the number-crunching conservative: He’s more popular with Democrats, who give him a 60% approval rating, than he is with his own Republicans. Just 45% of GOP voters say they’re happy with the job Raff has done.”

Hice likely won’t be Raffensperger’s only challenger, either. Former Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle, who Raffensperger handily defeated in a 2018 runoff for the Republican nomination, is expected to launch a bid this week as well. And former State Rep. Vernon Jones, a Democrat-turned-Republican who was a fixture at President Trump’s campaign rallies, could also join the race.

The Race to Replace Hice in Congress

Hice’s decision to run for Secretary of State creates a vacancy in his solidly Republican congressional district. Georgia’s 10th district is located in eastern Georgia and comprises of all or parts of 25 counties. In the 2020 presidential election, the 10th district voted for former President Trump by over 20 percentage points.

Several Republican state legislators are set to jump into the race for this solidly red district, the most prominent of which is State Rep. Houston Gaines (R-Athens). The 26-year-old lawmaker is a former student body president at the University of Georgia and is one of the youngest members of the Georgia Legislature. He was one of the lead sponsors of a 2019 bill that would have banned most abortions in Georgia after six weeks of pregnancy.

Other Republicans are sure to run for the seat. State Sen. Bill Coswert (R-Athens), an attorney, could also compete for the seat. State Rep. Jodi Lott (R-Evans), a registered nurse who serves as one of Gov. Brian Kemp’s legislative floor leaders, is also reportedly considering a run.

Of course, redistricting could also complicate the race for this now-open seat. The once-in-a-decade process to redraw political boundaries, which usually takes place in the spring or summer, has been delayed to September as the Census Bureau recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.