For The Record

Dems running for state elections chief aim debate attacks at Raffensperger

By: - June 6, 2022 7:51 pm

Dee Dawkins-Haigler, left, and Bee Nguyen are seeking to challenge Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Screenshot via Atlanta Press Club/Georgia Public Broadcasting.

The two remaining Democratic candidates for Georgia’s secretary of state took to the debate stage Monday to make their case for selection as the party nominee ahead of the June 21 runoff.

But rather than go after each other, state Rep. Bee Nguyen of Atlanta and former state Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler of DeKalb trained their fire primarily on current Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

During the portion of the debate where candidates ask questions of one another, Nguyen asked Dawkins-Haigler to give examples of voter suppression policies Raffensperger supports.

“Brad Raffesnperger supports a lot of legislation that is very disingenuous to the people in Georgia,” Dawkins-Haigler said. “One of the things that he supports is having that extra voter identification that was added to the absentee ballot. He also supported allowing Georgia citizens to have to reapply to have a secondary ballot sent to them, absentee ballot, in the event that a runoff were to occur. He also is standing up now saying that they need armed security in our polling places, turning them into battleground fields. And we know that the last thing we need is armed guards at any type of polling place because that intimidates people.”

Nguyen was entitled to a rebuttal, in which she seconded everything her opponent said.

“I agree with Representative Dawkins-Hagler,” said Nguyen. “Brad Raffensperger is not a friend to our democracy. In addition to backing Senate Bill 202, the 98-page voter suppression bill that criminalizes handing out a bottle of water to voters waiting in line, he recently came out and stated he wants to end automatic voter registration. He supports ending, no-excuse absentee ballot voting. And it is important for us to tell Georgia voters exactly who Brad Raffensperger is, and he is not a friend to our democracy.”

Raffensperger dodged a GOP runoff last month when he earned 52.4% of the vote. His closest competitor, Jody Hice, a former Congressman who ran on a platform of election conspiracies, took 33.3%.

Raffensperger is detested by former President Donald Trump and respected by some Democrats for his decision not to assist Trump in illegally overturning the 2020 election.

Addressing Democratic voters who chose a Republican ballot last month to boost Raffensperger, Dawkins-Haigler questioned whether his stance was based on principles.

“One of the reasons why he defended the voting machines and the integrity of the vote is because he hired some of his friends to do that job, so he didn’t want to have egg on his face either, in the position of the Secretary of State bringing them on with the Dominion machines, as well as the people saying that those results were not accurate,” she said. “And so that’s one of the reasons why he stood up to Donald Trump and the rest of them regarding our elections.”

Nguyen gave Raffensperger credit for following the law, but she also blamed him for contributing to continued mistrust in the 2020 election among some Republicans.

“The reason why a portion of Republican voters believe that the election was stolen in 2020 is because Republican leadership enabled this to happen. We currently have a secretary of state who upheld the law, but he’s running his campaign based on conspiracy theories, including the alleged idea that non-citizens are voting, which is not true and the alleged idea that Georgians are ballot harvesting, which is not true.”

Each woman said she is the best qualified to give Raffensperger the boot, but only one of them will get the chance to try. Nguyen got the most votes in the May 24 primary, but not enough to avoid a runoff. She received more than 309,000 votes in the five-person race, good for 44.3%, while Dawkins-Haigler received over 130,000 votes, or 18.6%.

Since the runoff, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams has given Nguyen her endorsement. Nguyen was elected to Abrams’ old state house district in Atlanta in 2017 after Abrams vacated the seat to run for governor.

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Ross Williams
Ross Williams

Before joining the Georgia Recorder, Ross Williams covered local and state government for the Marietta Daily Journal.Williams' reporting took him from City Hall to homeless camps, from the offices of business executives to the living rooms of grieving parents. His work earned recognition from the Georgia Associated Press Media Editors and the Georgia Press Association, including beat reporting, business writing and non-deadline reporting. A native of Cobb County, Williams holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Atlanta's Oglethorpe University and a master’s in journalism from Northwestern University.

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