Former President Donald Trump on Monday endorsed Rep. Jody Hice in a campaign to unseat Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in next year’s Republican primary, saying that "unlike" the incumbent, "Jody leads out front with integrity."
Trump publicly seethed about Raffensperger after the November election, when the secretary of state refused to support Trump's false claims that Georgia's 16 electoral votes were stolen from him. Top Raffensperger aides had publicly rebuked the president's conspiracy theories, warning in early December that it would lead to potential violence.
The then-president aggressively pressured Raffensperger, including in an early January call when Trump told Raffensperger that he should "find" a specific number of votes so that he could reverse Joe Biden's victory in the state. The call has exposed Trump to potential legal consequences, with Georgia prosecutors investigating whether he improperly tried to influence the election results.
Hice, who first won election to his east-central Georgia seat in 2014, is a staunch Trump ally who supported Trump’s efforts to overturn the election. He derided the Democratic-led push to impeach Trump over his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol Hill riot as “bogus.”
The 60-year-old congressmember savaged the secretary of state in his Monday campaign launch, saying that "What Brad Raffensperger did was create cracks in the integrity of our elections, which I wholeheartedly believe individuals took advantage of in 2020."
Shortly after Hice's announcement, Trump weighed in with his endorsement.
"I have 100% confidence in Jody to fight for Free, Fair, and Secure Elections in Georgia, in line with our beloved U.S. Constitution. Jody will stop the Fraud and get honesty into our Elections! Jody loves the people of Georgia, and has my Complete and Total Endorsement," Trump said in a statement through his political action committee, Save America PAC.
Trump has been fixated on Georgia as he maps out his plans for the 2022 midterms. The former president has been trying to recruit a primary opponent to GOP Gov. Brian Kemp, whom Trump has accused of doing too little to intervene in the state’s vote count. He has also publicly encouraged former NFL running back Herschel Walker to mount a Senate bid.
The former president also recently hosted former Sen. David Perdue at his South Florida resort as Perdue was weighing whether to challenge Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, before Perdue decided not to run.
Raffensperger and his aides have been preparing for a potential primary challenge since he broke with the president. Should he survive the primary, Raffensperger would also likely face a serious challenge from Democrats, who are eager to take the office.
“Few have done more to cynically undermine faith in our election than Jody Hice," Raffensperger said in a statement. "We saw in January what Georgia voters will do to candidates who use that rhetoric."
Marc Caputo contributed to this report.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misspelled Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger's name.