Normally, when a veteran congressman in a very safe seat thinks about running for secretary of State back home — never the most powerful position in the hierarchy of statewide offices — you figure she or he is tired of Washington or wants to downshift into lighter duty. But when the state in question is Georgia, the cockpit of a nationwide battle over voting rights, that may not be the case. And when the congressman in question is the very-right-wing Trump loyalist Jody Hice, and the incumbent secretary of State he may challenge in a 2022 Republican primary is Brad Raffensperger, it makes even more sense. If Hice decides to run (which he is publicly mulling, and which my friends in Georgia tell me he will soon announce), it will be transparently part of an effort by Team MAGA to purge the man who refused to validate the 45th president’s efforts to overturn his electoral defeat in Georgia. On a more fundamental level, it will be an attempted revenge hit by the Trump-family political syndicate.
In discussing the potential campaign, Hice has confirmed that Trump is “supportive” of a bid. The four-term congressman from east-central Georgia is an appropriate vehicle for the punishment of Raffensperger. Hice, once known simply as an especially shrill Christian Right pol (he is an ordained Southern Baptist minister) who thought Muslims should not be protected by the First Amendment, has been a staunch Trump ally in the generally Trumpy ranks of the House Freedom Caucus. He backed the former president’s postelection fraud claims to the hilt and called Raffensperger “irresponsible” for certifying the results anyway. And he also blamed the secretary of State for the Republican losses in Georgia’s January 5 Senate runoffs.
On January 6, Hice backed challenges to the certified electoral votes from Pennsylvania and Georgia (which did not get a vote because Senator Kelly Loeffler backed out of giving it the required endorsement after the MAGA mob assaulted the Capitol to “stop the steal”). Yes, he backpedaled a bit after his Instagram post that day got attention for calling it “our 1776 moment,” but his condemnations of the violence were mostly excuses for trying to change the subject:
As a Christian conservative, I have always supported law enforcement and the rule of law. For months, I have been shocked and angered by the radical Left’s rampage through our nation’s cities — looting, rioting, burning businesses, targeting police, and attacking innocent civilians, often with the support of liberal media figures and elected Democrats. I have consistently spoken out against this wildly irresponsible and dangerous behavior. I feel no differently about the events of January 6 than I do about the unrest during the summer.
If Hice is to become Trump’s instrument for smiting Raffensperger, he needs to get a move on and preempt potential rivals. Former Alpharetta (an Atlanta suburb) mayor David Belle Isle, who lost to Raffensperger in a 2018 runoff, is talking about a rematch. Another name being heard is that of Vernon Jones, the Black former Democratic state legislator and DeKalb County CEO who got priceless exposure at the Republican National Convention in 2020. It’s not easy to stand out clearly among Georgia’s feuding and very noisy Republicans right now.
Whoever’s running against Raffensperger, it could be the undercard battle in 2022 if another pro-Trump challenger — possibly fire-eating former congressman Doug Collins — takes on incumbent governor Brian Kemp, another object of the former president’s wrath, who in turn was Raffy’s predecessor. Georgia Democrats are already popping popcorn and laying plans.