Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is being swept into another sensitive political matter, the latest in a series of headline-grabbing incidents for an official whose day-to-day duties typically render the position obscure.
The Republican who serves as Georgia’s top elections official on Friday accepted a state judge’s recommendation that Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene shouldn’t be disqualified over her role in the January 6 insurrection. Raffensperger formally ruled that Greene will stay on the ballot, though anti-Greene challengers have vowed to appeal.
Raffensperger, 66, is probably best known for refusing then-President Donald Trump’s push in a bombshell phone call to “find” votes in Trump’s favor needed to overturn the 2020 presidential results in Georgia. During the January 2, 2021, call, Trump lambasted his fellow Republican for refusing to falsely say that he had won the election in Georgia and repeatedly touted baseless claims of election fraud.
“The people of Georgia are angry, the people of the country are angry. And there’s nothing wrong with saying that, you know, um, that you’ve recalculated,” Trump said in one part of the call. Raffensperger responded, “Well, Mr. President, the challenge that you have is, the data you have is wrong.”
Raffensperger has continued to defend his performance and remains committed to the idea that the election was conducted fairly and offered a warning to those who charged otherwise without evidence.
It was among the strongest public stands for election integrity taken by a Republican under immense pressure from Trump and his followers – and it wasn’t without consequences.
“You and your family will be killed very slowly,” read one anonymous text that Raffensperger’s wife, Tricia, told Reuters in an exclusive interview last year that she had received, an example of the kinds of threats and scrutiny his family faced. Brad Raffensperger told CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront” at the time that the threats were unacceptable.
“This is not acceptable behavior to threaten the wives, the children, the family of people that work for the government or even the government workers,” he said. “They didn’t sign up for this.”
Raffensperger became a pariah of sorts within the GOP, facing calls for resignation from within his own party and censure at the Georgia GOP convention in 2021 due to “dereliction of his constitutional duty.”
“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 said at the time in response to the calls for him to step down.
“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,” Raffensperger continued.
A business background
Raffensperger, who touts himself as a conservative Republican, took office in 2019. He had served two terms in the Georgia General Assembly in 2015-2019.
Raffensperger obtained his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Western University and has a Master of Business Administration degree from Georgia State University, according to the Georgia secretary of state website.
A campaign website describes him as a structural engineer and founder of a steel company known as Tendon Systems. “As the CEO of a thriving company, Brad uses business principles to run the office of Georgia Secretary of State, including purchasing and deploying modern voting machines across the entire state that could be audited and verified, including a full recount by hand, if necessary,” the website says.
Brad and Tricia Raffensperger have been married for more than 45 years, according to his campaign website. The couple has three sons.
Running for reelection
Raffensperger’s term is set to end next year, and the secretary of state is running for reelection while facing three opponents in the primary field ahead of the election later this month. His leading opponent, Republican Rep. Jody Hice, has aligned himself with Trump’s political brand and previously said Trump would’ve won the 2020 election in Georgia if it had been “fair” – a stance that garnered an endorsement from the former President.
In a primary field in which his Republican opponents have committed themselves to fighting voter fraud – despite the fact that such fraud barely exists and President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory in the Peach State was affirmed by three ballot counts – Raffensperger has expressed commitment to the same issue.
On Monday, after Hice falsely accused Raffensperger of creating “ballot harvesting” – generally speaking, the phrase refers to the practice of organizations or activists collecting voters’ completed absentee ballots and submitting them for counting rather than voters sending in their ballots themselves or getting family members or friends to submit them – Raffensperger said Hice “has just not been honest for the last 18 months, and he has been spreading misinformation, disinformation.”
To further emphasize the point, Raffensperger’s campaign website touts him as the “first to ban ballot harvesting” in Georgia.
Raffensperger has also supported a controversial law passed in the wake of Biden’s victory to impose new voting restrictions.
In an interview last year on CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper,” Raffensperger said that although elections were run “fairly, honestly and accurately,” the law, which limits the use of ballot drop boxes and makes it a crime to approach voters in line to give them food and water, was about addressing voter confidence in the election systems.
“At the end of the day, it has never been easier to vote in the state of Georgia, and we still have accessibility. We also have balanced that out with security,” he said.