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Republicans compete to be Georgia’s top election official

Updated: May. 21, 2021 at 9:43 AM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Georgia’s elections are in the national spotlight – from scrutiny over the voting systems and laws, to the highly-competitive statewide races. Now the upcoming campaign for the Peach State’s top election official is heating up and attracting a crowded field of candidates, even though the primaries aren’t until next year.

Republicans are lining up to challenge incumbent Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, following the firestorm of controversy surrounding Georgia’s November elections.

“I would give him an F, and not just because I’m running against him,” said David Belle Isle, who is running for Georgia secretary of state.

David Belle Isle says Raffensperger did not take enough steps to ensure confidence in the outcome of the 2020 elections. He believes that suppressed the Republican vote and cost the GOP its Senate majority.

“As a practicing attorney and business owner, I think that experience in the executive level, in the legal level, that’s what we need right now because we’ve got to clean up a pretty big mess,” said Belle Isle.

Congressman Jody Hice and former probate judge TJ Hudson also plan to run in the GOP primary next year.

“I’ve always been hands-on for Georgians. I’ve always been boots on the ground,” said TJ Hudson.

Hudson, who ran elections in Treutlen County, wants to see more training and resources for the local officials, especially in rural Georgia.

“Your chief election official in the state of Georgia should have some type of election experience. I have what those other candidates cannot give before the next election, and that’s 17 years of experience,” said Hudson.

Raffensperger tells the Gray Television Washington News Bureau that many reforms have taken place to increase faith in the election system. He says surrogates for then-President Donald Trump spread falsehoods about voter fraud and stifled the vote in those January Senate runoffs.

“At the end of the day for me re-elect will be about election integrity. You either have it, or you don’t. You’re either going to stand on the truth, or you won’t,” said Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R).

Raffensperger says since he’s been in office, Georgia has put in place verifiable paper ballots and ditched signature match requirements in favor of a driver’s license number for voter verification.

“As your secretary of state, I’m going to fight to make sure we have honest and fair elections, with the proper balance of accessibility with security, so you know your vote counts,” said Raffensperger.

The Secretary of State race is set to happen in 2022. The primaries are scheduled for June 21 and candidates must qualify to be on the ballot in March.

The Gray Television Washington News Bureau also reached out to Rep. Jody Hice’s campaign, but they did not make time for an interview for this story. Former President Donald Trump has endorsed Hice in this race.

Photojournalist/Editor Tyler Smith contributed to this report.

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