Senators Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) and David Perdue (R-GA) wear protective masks after the arrival of President Donald Trump on July 15, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia as they walk together at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport .
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
WASHINGTON – Georgia Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue called for the resignation of their state’s elected Republican Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, on Monday.
In a rare joint statement, Perdue and Loeffler cited “mismanagement and lack of transparency” as reasons for their request, but gave no specific examples.
“We believe that if there are mistakes, they must be called – even if it is in your own party,” the statement said in part. “There have been too many unsuccessful elections in Georgia this year, and the recent elections have shed a national light on the problems. … The foreign minister’s mismanagement and lack of transparency are unacceptable.”
Their demand is extraordinary, but not entirely surprising.
It’s extraordinary because both Perdue and Loeffler face possible runoffs for their Senate seats against Democrats in January. Hence, the political rationale behind the attack on a Republican who is also the state’s top electoral officer is difficult to understand.
Raffensperger is popular with Republicans in the state, and in 2018 President Donald Trump endorsed his campaign and tweeted that Raffensperger “will be a fantastic secretary of state for Georgia.”
But that was before last week when Trump saw his early lead over Georgia-elect Joe Biden gradually fade as more and more votes were counted.
On Monday afternoon, Biden led Trump by around 11,500 votes in the traditionally red state, and Georgia Republicans were looking for someone to blame.
In a blistering response on Monday, Raffensperger said his resignation “will not happen”. He called the senators’ complaint that the vote count was not transparent “ludicrous” and strongly implied that the motive behind their request to step down was that Trump was on the right track to losing the state.
“Were there any illegal votes? I’m sure they did and my office is investigating everything,” he said. “Is it increasing to the numbers or margin required to change the outcome to President Trump getting the Georgian vote? That is unlikely.”
Last week, Trump lost his first and so far only legal effort in Georgia to challenge the election when a judge there dismissed his campaign complaint alleging that in Chatham County an election worker saw late-arriving votes mixed with on-time votes were.
Even so, Trump still seems fixated on Georgia winning, tweeted Monday afternoon that Georgia “will be a big presidential win since it was election night!”
When Trump began stepping up his attacks on the Georgia electoral process last week, Raffensperger defended the integrity of the state elections and implicitly denied the allegations made by the de facto leader of his own party.
“There is a lot at stake and the emotions are high on all sides,” Raffensperger said at a press conference on Friday. “We will not let this debate distract us from our work. We will do it right.”
NBC News and other major news outlets haven’t called the state for Biden yet. But with more than 99% of the vote and fewer than 40,000 ballots outstanding, few political watchers believe the remaining ballots will favor Trump enough that he can catch up the margins needed to stay ahead of Biden.
With such little leeway between Trump and Biden in Georgia, the state will likely do a formal recount of presidential votes before confirming the final balance sheet.
“With such a small margin there will be a recount in Georgia,” Raffensperger said on Friday. “The interest in our election obviously goes far beyond the borders of Georgia.”