As Georgia’s Republican Party prepares for the post-Labor Day campaign sprint, its hymn sheet of reads unity, but how much the rank-and-file, still deeply divided over the 2020 election, wants to sing along remains to be seen.
Certainly, the voices of the choir leaders aren’t quite in tune. That was evident as the party’s candidate for lieutenant governor, State Sen. Burt Jones, and Attorney General Chris Carr, along with a host of other Republicans, gathered at a wedding hall on the outskirts of Statesboro for a party fundraiser.
Jones, of course, was one of 16 Republicans on a list of alternative or false electors compiled by state party chair David Shafer following the 2020 presidential election who were prepared to certify that Donald Trump defeated Joe Biden in Georgia.
During his campaign for his party’s nomination, he frequently voiced his support for a special legislative session to investigate the election results, which Gov. Brian Kemp and other GOP leaders said would have breached the state’s Constitution.
Asked about the simmering divisions in the party over the 2020 election, Jones told The Current in Statesboro that he was merely responding to complaints about voting irregularities from “various polling sites from all different parts of the state” and from some constituents who were “more than willing to sign affidavits” about their claims.
Any attempt to interject an alternative slate of electors into the presidential election was merely preparatory and dependent on lawsuits over the election results moving forward, which didn’t occur, he said.
The 43-year-old scion of the petroleum company bearing his family’s name owes that impasse to Gov. Brian Kemp, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, and especially to Carr, who represented the Kemp administration in court. On Thursday, Carr made no apologies for his actions in defending the outcome of the presidential election in Georgia.
“We went to court 16 times between November and January 6, defending the laws, the evidence, and the statements of fact,” he said. “We prevailed 16 times. I’m proud of the job we did.”
The 50-year-old Carr, who is running for a second, four-year term in office against Democrat Jen Jordan, was adamant that he belongs in a Republican Party in which Trump and election denial still hold sway.
“I’m a Republican. I wanted my team to win. But we didn’t lose for the reason that some people said we did.”
Among the non-politicians attending the fundraiser, there was concern, to be sure, about Senate candidate Herschel Walker and his slips — both those of the tongue and those in the polls. “I’m going to see him this weekend and give him some advice,” said a middle-aged man, shaking his head, adding that he’d known Walker “for years.”
But although Jones, Carr, and the four or five other Republican officials and politicians did not mention Trump by name in their public remarks, it was the shadow of the former president that loomed over every pitch for votes, money and especially, unity in November.
One worried attendee complained about the “enormous amount of baggage that Trump carries,” another about his insistence on “always having the last word.” No one said they wanted Trump to run in 2024, but all seemed to accept what, with a resigned shrug, they viewed as the inevitability of his candidacy. One man, an employee at Georgia State University, said he’d settle for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — “Trumpism without Trump,” he said.
The Tide brings news and observations from The Current’s staff.