How this Republican official became the most hated man in his party

A week ago almost no one outside of Georgia had ever heard the name Brad Raffensperger. Today? He’s the most hated man in Republican politics.

Raffensperger is the secretary of state in Georgia, and as such, is in charge of the state’s election. Which means that he is the lightning rod for President Donald Trump’s ire about losing the state and ongoing pressure campaign to find a way to make sure that the full manual recount, which Raffensperger ordered last week, overturns the current result.
“Georgia Secretary of State, a so-called Republican (RINO), won’t let the people checking the ballots see the signatures for fraud,” tweeted Trump on Friday. “Why? Without this the whole process is very unfair and close to meaningless. Everyone knows that we won the state. Where is @BrianKempGA?” (Trump has sent seven subsequent tweets attacking the Georgia recount process since that Friday tweet.)
Georgia Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler called on Raffensperger to resign last week — although they failed to mention exactly what he had done wrong. “Georgians are outraged, and rightly so. We have been clear from the beginning: every legal vote cast should be counted. Any illegal vote must not. And there must be transparency and uniformity in the counting process,” the two said in a joint statement.

    And, as Raffenspgerger recounted to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Monday, he was on the receiving end of a call from Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham that he perceived as pressuring him to disqualify ballots.
    “He asked if the ballots could be matched back to the voters,” Raffensperger said of Graham. “And then he, I got the sense it implied that then you could throw those out for any, if you look at the counties with the highest frequent error of signatures. So that’s the impression that I got.”
    (Sidebar: This is completely and totally outrageous on Graham’s part — especially given his role as the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. It is in keeping, however, with his dogged willingness to win the award as Trump’s most loyal sycophant. For what it’s worth, Graham denied Raffenperger’s allegation, calling it “ridiculous.”)
    That Raffensperger has somehow become the public face of Trumpworld’s discontent with the outcome of the presidential election is, well, odd.
    Prior to running to be secretary of state in 2018, he served as a state representative from a suburban Atlanta seat. He won his current job in a December 2018 runoff against former Rep. John Barrow.
    In advance of that runoff victory, Raffensperger won the endorsement of — wait for it — President Donald Trump. “Brad Raffensperger will be a fantastic Secretary of State for Georgia – will work closely with @BrianKempGA,” tweeted the President on November 26, 2018. “It is really important that you get out and vote for Brad – early voting starts today, election is on December 4th. @VoteBradRaff is tough on Crime and Borders, Loves our Military and Vets. He will be great for jobs!”
    The runoff (and the job) had drawn national attention even before Trump’s endorsement because the man Raffensperger was running to replace, Brian Kemp, had just been elected governor by a very narrow margin over Democrat Stacey Abrams. Democrats cried foul that the chief election officer was also the GOP candidate for governor but Kemp refused to step down during the campaign. Those complaints grew louder amid the very close result — Kemp won by fewer than 55,000 votes — and Abrams refused to concede the race.
    Raffensperger, despite the controversy, cast himself as a candidate who would follow in Kemp’s footsteps particularly in regard to the state’s strict voter ID law. “I’m going to make sure that elections are clean, fair and accurate,” he said in his victory speech. “And that’s the No. 1 priority as your next secretary of state.”
    Raffensperger could not have imagined then that less than two years after that win, he would be under fire from Republican not Democrats over his conduct in the 2020 election. But such is the irrational hold that Trump still exerts over the GOP. No one in the party really knows what they think Raffensperger did wrong. But they know Trump is mad, so they are mad too.
    For his part, Raffensperger isn’t taking these intra-party attacks lying down. In response to the calls of Loeffler and Perdue for him to resign, he shot back: “Let me start by saying that is not going to happen. The voters of Georgia hired me, and the voters will be the one to fire me.” He also posted a series of debunkings of Trump’s claims about voter fraud in the state on his Facebook page over the weekend.
      In his interview on CNN Monday night, Raffensperger reflected on what it has meant to see his own party turn against him.
      “You always think I’m on this side of the aisle obviously and you always think your side wears the white hats,” he told Blitzer. “But people are really upset about this. And at the end of the day, I understand how contentious it is. We’re going to follow the process, we follow the law. The results will be what they are.”

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