By Eric Bradner, CNN
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger will overcome a Republican primary challenge from US Rep. Jody Hice, a Donald Trump ally whose campaign was centered on false claims about the 2020 election, CNN projects.
Raffensperger’s victory caps a Georgia primary election in which Republican voters roundly rejected Trump’s attempts at retribution against the state officials who refused to back his lie that the 2020 election was stolen.
In the early hours after polls closed in Georgia on Tuesday, Raffensperger was the only one of the former President’s targets in Georgia facing any doubt about his reelection bid. He held a clear lead over Hice, but the presence of two other Republican candidates threatened to keep the incumbent’s total support below the 50% threshold needed to avoid a runoff.
The Democratic primary to take on Raffensperger will head to a runoff, with state Rep. Bee Nguyen and former state Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler advancing. The runoff will take place on June 21.
Raffensperger emerged as a national figure in the aftermath of the 2020 election, following the revelation of an early 2021 call with Trump in which the then-President urged Georgia’s chief elections officer to “find” enough votes to overturn the state’s election results after Joe Biden had defeated Trump by nearly 12,000 votes. That call now is part of a special grand jury investigation into whether Trump or his allies committed any crimes in their quest to overturn the election results.
Trump backed Hice, a conservative congressman who had aligned himself closely with the former President, from the launch of his campaign for secretary of state in March 2021. Hice repeated Trump’s claims about election fraud throughout the race. He claimed in a debate earlier this month that the 2020 election had been an “absolute disaster” under Raffensperger’s leadership, without offering any evidence or details to support that claim.
Raffensperger, meanwhile, has long defended Georgia’s election process. He was also a staunch advocate of the voting law that the Republican-controlled legislature approved in 2021, which imposes a raft of new restrictions on mail-in voting, prohibits providing food and water to people waiting in line to vote and more. Raffensperger has also pushed for a constitutional amendment to ban noncitizen voting, although it’s already illegal under Georgia law.
Trump had targeted other Georgia Republicans, including Gov. Brian Kemp and Attorney General Chris Carr, for refusing to support his election lies. But both will comfortably win their primaries Tuesday over Trump-backed opponents, CNN projects.
This story has been updated.
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CNN’s Fredreka Schouten and Kelly Mena contributed to this report.