The Democratic primary in Georgia’s secretary of state race is heading to a runoff that may arrange one candidate to potentially make history in November’s general election, irrespective of who ultimately wins the nomination on June 21.
State Rep. Bee Nguyen finished as the highest vote-getter in Tuesday’s primary, winning roughly 44% of ballots solid in the competition. But that left Nguyen, who led the sector in fundraising and endorsements, wanting the bulk threshold needed to avoid a runoff.
Nguyen’s opponent within the head-to-head matchup that may determine the Democratic nominee has not yet been decided: As of Wednesday morning, former state Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler was in second place with 18.7% of the vote, while Michael Owens, a former Cobb County Democratic Party chairman, was in third, with 16.5%. Former Milledgeville, Georgia, Mayor Floyd Griffin is in fourth with 11%.
Nguyen, who rose to national prominence after difficult Republican voter fraud conspiracy theories and efforts to undermine Democratic victories within the 2020 elections, would turn into the primary Asian American candidate elected to statewide office in Georgia history if she wins the runoff and the final election in November.
Dawkins-Haigler, Owens or Griffin would turn into the primary Black secretary of state in Georgia history if any of them prevail within the runoff and again in November.
Georgia state Rep. Bee Nguyen led all candidates in Tuesday’s Democratic secretary of state primary, but didn’t win the vast majority of votes required to avoid a runoff.
Derek White via Getty Images
The Democratic contest occurred opposite a heated Republican primary that pitted incumbent Brad Raffensperger, who thwarted former President Donald Trump’s efforts to steal the 2020 election, against Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.), who twice voted to contest the 2020 election leads to Congress.
The GOP primary even attracted votes from 1000’s of Georgians who had solid ballots in Democratic primaries in previous years, in line with The Atlanta Journal-Structure, as some Democratic voters sought to assist derail Hice and other candidates who received Trump’s endorsement.
Raffensperger won Tuesday night’s Republican primary, in line with projections, easily defeating Hice and earning enough votes to avoid a runoff contest.
But Democrats in Georgia and elsewhere say that result doesn’t lessen the importance of November’s election. Although Raffensperger resisted Trump, they argue, he also backed the GOP-controlled legislature’s passage of Senate Bill 202, an “election integrity” law that placed a litany of latest restrictions on voting rights.
“Secretary of State Raffensperger could have done his job in 2020, however the very least a secretary of state can do isn’t steal an election from the American people,” Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold, the chair of the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State, told HuffPost in a Tuesday evening interview.
Raffensperger, she added, “has done tremendous damage to voting rights while in office.”
The association, a celebration campaign arm, endorsed Nguyen within the Democratic race.
Georgia’s secretary of state contest is unlikely to attract as much attention as higher-profile battles for governor and U.S. Senate, but Democrats hope a powerful top of the ticket ― led by gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and Sen. Raphael Warnock ― can assist them prevail in a contest they see as crucial to the fight to guard voting rights, elections and democracy itself in Georgia.
The secretary of state race, which determines Georgia’s top elections official, took on heightened importance after Trump sought to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in that state, and spread conspiracy theories and lies about widespread voter fraud and other irregularities that he claimed tainted the result. Raffensperger refused Trump’s attempts to say an illegitimate victory in Georgia, drawing the ire of Trump and lots of Republicans.
Last yr, Georgia’s Republican-controlled legislature also used the supposed issue of fraud to pass SB 202, one in all the country’s most sweeping and aggressive packages of voting restrictions and election reforms. The bill stripped some powers from the secretary of state, implemented latest restrictions on absentee voting, and gave the legislature more partisan power over elections.
Republican state legislatures passed one other 30 bills limiting voting rights across the country within the wake of SB 202, which Democrats have solid as a model for GOP attempts to suppress the votes of Black people, individuals with disabilities, other minority communities and young voters.
This has made Georgia one in all the essential battlegrounds for secretary of state races, which have turn into a spotlight for each parties as Republican election deniers seek to win contests in key swing states and Democrats try and stop them.
All five Democratic candidates within the Georgia secretary of state primary ran on platforms that emphasized protecting voting rights and democracy. The Democratic debates were a pointy contrast from the GOP’s, which focused on disputes over whether the 2020 election was stolen.
The Democratic candidates all opposed SB 202, and all said they might seek to implement policies that expand voting rights.
Nguyen, who in 2017 won the seat formerly held by Abrams, racked up essentially the most endorsements within the race, and led Democratic candidates in fundraising. She had the backing of Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) and greater than 100 state lawmakers. She also won endorsements from quite a few national progressive groups, including Fair Fight, the voting rights organization Abrams launched; the pro-choice group NARAL; EMILY’s List; and the Service Employees International Union.
Nguyen decided to run for secretary of state after the January 2021 revolt on the U.S. Capitol, she told HuffPost last yr. Nguyen, a daughter of Vietnamese immigrants who fled their country after an authoritarian Communist government took power, said she feared that the GOP’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election, and the party’s increasingly authoritarian turn, could lead on to the destruction of American democracy ― especially with Republican election deniers lining as much as run for secretary of state positions in Georgia and other swing states.
“We’re one or two election cycles away from a constitutional crisis,” Nguyen said on the time. “We only have a handful of opportunities to get this right. If we don’t elect secretaries of state in our swing states who will uphold the law and protect our democracy, we’re going to be in trouble for a really very long time.”
Dawkins-Haigler, meanwhile, served as a Georgia state representative from 2009 to 2017. She ran for secretary of state in 2016, but lost to former Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.) in a primary. During a primary debate in early May, Dawkins-Haigler called the GOP election law “unconscionable,” and said she would increase funds to guard voting rights and bolster voter education.
“I would like to be sure that that the people of Georgia, Black people specifically, could have free and fair elections and access to the ballot box at any time,” Dawkins-Haigler said at a recent campaign stop, in line with the Valdosta Day by day Times. “Given the craziness of the last two years, I worry that their vote is not going to count or be suppressed.”
Owens is a cybersecurity expert and former Marine who led the Cobb County Democratic Party in suburban Atlanta as that region became increasingly blue. He lost two primary challenges to Rep. David Scott (D) in 2014 and 2020.
Owens, like other Democratic candidates, has said he opposes SB 202 and would seek to make it easier for Georgians to vote. He also focused his campaign on Georgia businesses, saying that the following secretary of state should prioritize minority-owned corporations.
Georgia Democrats haven’t won a secretary of state race since 2002. But with voting rights issues animating lots of the party’s voters, Democrats are hopeful they will follow their success there in 2020 ― when Warnock, Sen. Jon Ossoff (D) and President Joe Biden won a trio of statewide races ― with one other round of victories in November’s midterm elections.