Home featured Georgia Senators Inflame G.O.P. Rift in Calling for Election Official’s Resignation

Georgia Senators Inflame G.O.P. Rift in Calling for Election Official’s Resignation

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ATLANTA — A rift among Georgia Republicans exploded into public view on Monday as the state’s incumbent senators, both locked in fierce runoff fights for their seats, lashed out at the Republican officials who oversaw last week’s election and leveled unfounded claims of a faulty process lacking in transparency.

The all-out intraparty war erupted as the vote count in Georgia on Monday continued to show President Trump narrowly trailing President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler of Georgia took the extraordinary step of issuing a joint statement calling for the resignation of the Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, and condemning the election as an “embarrassment.”

“We believe when there are failures, they need to be called out — even when it’s in your own party,” the senators said in their statement, which did not offer any specific allegations or elaborate on how they believed Mr. Raffensperger had fallen short, except to accuse him of “mismanagement and lack of transparency.”

“Honest elections are paramount to the foundation of our democracy,” they added. “The secretary of state has failed to deliver honest and transparent elections. He has failed the people of Georgia, and he should step down immediately.”

Mr. Raffensperger dismissed their allegations as “laughable.”

“Let me start by saying that is not going to happen,” Mr. Raffensperger said of the request to resign.

ImageGeorgia’s secretary of state, Ben Raffensperger, dismissed the allegations as “laughable.”
Credit…Dustin Chambers/Reuters

“I know emotions are running high,” he added. “Politics are involved in everything right now. If I was Senator Perdue, I’d be irritated I was in a runoff. And both senators and I are all unhappy with the potential outcome for our president.”

He argued that his office had been transparent, holding regular briefings and urgently updating vote counts. He asserted that the reporting process had been orderly and lawful, and noted that his office had sent investigators to consider allegations of potential illegal voting. He noted, too, that he had a monitor appointed to oversee elections in Fulton County, home to much of Atlanta, which he called “one of our longtime problem Democrat-run counties.”

The discord has grown as the election results in Georgia, a reliably Republican stronghold in recent years, have unsettled the state and national G.O.P. With nearly all of the ballots counted, Mr. Biden leads Mr. Trump by about 11,400 votes, and Mr. Perdue and Ms. Loeffler were forced into runoff races against Democrats — pivotal elections that could determine control of the Senate.

The joint statement by Mr. Perdue and Ms. Loeffler reflected the divide among Republicans in the state, but also came as many in the party have continued to back Mr. Trump as he falsely insists that the election was stolen from him. On Monday, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, said Mr. Trump had “every right to look into allegations and request recounts.”

Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican who was the former top election official before his 2018 election, sought to find middle ground on Monday. While urging Mr. Raffensperger to take seriously any charges of fraud or irregularities surrounding the election, he also did not join in any condemnation of his successor.

“Given the close outcome and the record number of mail-in and absentee ballots cast in this election, this needs to be a wake-up call to the secretary of state’s office to take a serious look at any and all voting irregularity allegations that have been made,” Cody Hall, a spokesman for the governor, said in a statement on Monday. “Georgians deserve to have every legal vote counted in order to have full confidence in the outcome of our elections.”

Credit…Audra Melton for The New York Times

On Monday morning, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who is also a Republican, said on CNN that he had seen no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the state.

“We’ve not had any sort of credible incidents raised to our level yet and so we’ll continue to make sure that the opportunity to make sure every legal ballot is counted is there,” he said.

Some conservatives expressed fear that the volley of accusations impugning the electoral process could depress the vote among Republican voters, who might not turn out for the January runoffs if they did not trust the legitimacy of the electoral process. Some political analysts warned that such attacks could backfire with devastating consequences as the party braces for bitter showdowns between the senators and their opponents.

“Trump is gonna cost the GOP the Senate,” Erick Erickson, a Georgia-based conservative commentator, wrote on Twitter on Sunday. “His supporters are internalizing that the election in Georgia was stolen so why bother even trying.”

With their statement, Ms. Loeffler and Mr. Perdue, who have both long professed their fealty to Mr. Trump, were essentially doubling down on that sentiment, signaling that their campaigns could be more about turning out the conservative base of Trump supporters than repositioning to the political center.

In the Jan. 5 runoffs, Ms. Loeffler will face a challenge from the Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock, the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta; Mr. Perdue is running against Jon Ossoff, the chief executive of a media production company. None of them received at least 50 percent of the vote in last week’s election.

Credit…Audra Melton for The New York Times

Mr. Raffensperger, a civil engineer and former state lawmaker, was elected secretary of state in 2018 after receiving a glowing endorsement from Mr. Trump, who said that Mr. Raffensperger would be a “fantastic secretary of state.” Mr. Raffensperger succeeded Mr. Kemp, who was criticized by Democrats in his time as secretary of state for supporting what they described as widespread voter suppression tactics, often in the name of fighting voter fraud.

As a candidate, Mr. Raffensperger also emphasized election security issues, saying he was running “to make sure that only American citizens are voting in our elections.”

“The voters of Georgia hired me, and the voters will be the one to fire me,” Mr. Raffensperger said in his statement on Monday. “As secretary of state, I’ll continue to fight every day to ensure fair elections in Georgia, that every legal vote counts and that illegal votes don’t count.”

In an earlier briefing on Monday, Gabriel Sterling, the voting system implementation manager for Mr. Raffensperger’s office, sought to debunk the various allegations that had circulated and said Election Day had gone smoothly after long lines at times during early voting.

He noted that the average wait time to vote last Tuesday was two minutes.

“The facts are the facts, regardless of outcomes,” he said, adding, “In this state, this time, this election on Election Day was an amazing success.”

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