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Racial factors in Dem runoff for Georgia Secretary of State

ATLANTA – The Democratic primary for Georgia Secretary of State — the top election official in a critical swing state — could boil down to questions about how party loyalists view diversity and representation of black women.

Rep. Bee Nguyen, the daughter of Vietnamese immigrants, is believed to be the front-runner in the June 21 runoff, raising far more money than former Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler, who is black. Nguyen is joined by Stacey Abrams, Georgia’s nominee for governor whose organizational efforts have been widely recognized for President Joe Biden’s narrow victory here in 2020.

Dawkins-Haigler says the Georgia Democrats support Nguyen because she’s not black and they want to build a more diverse statewide ticket. She says there is a “racial problem within the Democratic Party.”

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become secretaries of state Conduct and certify elections in 2024 amid a spate of false allegations of voter fraud and a growing national push by Republicans try to undo lost elections. Either Nguyen or Dawkins-Haigler will face Brad Raffensperger Republican incumbent turned national figure after rejecting calls from former President Donald Trump to “find” votes to reverse his loss to Biden.

There are few political differences between Nguyen and Dawkins-Haigler. Both candidates against a Republican-led overhaul post-election 2020 election laws, including new restrictions on absentee ballots and greater legal oversight over how elections are conducted. Both criticized Raffensperger for supporting the changes, saying they support hand-marked paper ballots and not the touchscreen voting machines he implemented that print a paper ballot.

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The competition has highlighted different visions for Georgia’s Democrats as both the state and party bases become more diverse.

Nguyen, who received about 44% of the vote in last month’s primary, has the support of a broad base of party leaders, led by Abrams. Dawkins-Haigler, who grabbed almost 19% of the primary vote, was supported by the three Democrats – all black – who didn’t get into the runoff.

In addition to elections, the Office of the Secretary of State of Georgia is responsible for other functions, including business registration and professional licensing.

All but one of the eight incumbent Republican secretaries of state who are seeking re-election this year drew at least one GOP challenger who either denied that Biden had won the presidency or made unsubstantiated claims that elections were not safe.

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Raffensperger sent a challenge by US Rep. Jody Hice, a major Trump-backed challenger, without being forced into a runoff.

Black women make up an outsized portion of the Georgia Democratic electorate and are among the party’s most reliable voters. In the 2020 primary, they made up 36% of all Democratic voters, and blacks made up 57% of Democratic voters overall. The proportions were even higher in the 2018 primary, when Abrams ran for the first time against now-governor Brian Kemp. Back then, Blacks were 60% of all Democratic voters and Black women were 39%.

Georgia’s democratic electorate, like that of the country, is also female-leaning, accounting for 61% and 62% of voters in the 2020 and 2018 primary elections.

Both Democrats and Republicans are also striving to include more of Georgia’s rapidly growing Asian and Hispanic populations in their coalitions. While these voters have grown in importance in general elections, they have not historically been a large factor in primary elections. Asian and Hispanic voters combined accounted for just 4.2% of Democratic primary voters in 2020.

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Dawkins-Haigler says prominent Georgia Democrats believe a more diverse ticket would be more appealing to white voters, who could be put off if too many blacks are on the party’s ticket. It’s a calculation she says risks alienating the party’s grassroots.

“I’ve heard that across the state. Everyone is having that conversation,” she said.

Nguyen said she is proud to have built a broad coalition of advocates and supporters that she says will help her win in November.

“When I first put my name on the ballot in 2017, people told me I wasn’t the right candidate because of my race, gender and age — things I can’t change about myself,” she said about their first legislative run. “But I’ve connected with voters across the state of Georgia and listened to my constituents on the issues that matter most to them.”

Abrams, the only Democrat running for governor, refrained from endorsements until after the primary. It began with Nguyen taking the seat in the House of Representatives that Abrams once held. In the Lieutenant Governor’s race, she chose Charlie Bailey, a white man, to compete against Kwanza Hall, who is black. In the Labor Commissioner’s runoff, she supports a black man, William Boddie, over a white woman, Nicole Horn.

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Floyd Griffin, a former state senator and former mayor of the city of Milledgeville in central Georgia, was one of three former Democratic rivals for the secretary of state who backed Dawkins-Haigler in the runoff. He tweeted what he called his “Georgia Black Slate” for the Democratic runoff, which also includes Hall, Boddie and Janice Laws Robinson, who is up against another black candidate, Raphael Baker, in an insurance commissioner runoff.

Midway State Representative Al Williams is a black Democrat who served in the Legislature with both Nguyen and Dawkins-Haigler and counts them both as friends. Williams said the diverse list Abrams is trying to build represents the best possible future for the party.

“I think their idea is to do what we’ve been talking about for years, which is make our constitutional offices look like Georgia,” Williams said.

Andra Gillespie, a professor of political science at Emory University, said she wasn’t surprised to hear about appeals to race and said Abram’s support was a clear advantage for Nguyen as it meant Abrams was likely to put her impressive operation behind Nguyen and her other selected candidates will throw.

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“Whichever group has the best turnout will win,” she said. “And so I think the question is: do the insurgent campaigns of Kwanza Hall and Dee Dawkins-Haigler have what it takes to hold their own against the juggernaut of the US Abrams operation?”

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https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/06/17/race-factors-into-dem-runoff-for-georgia-secretary-of-state/ Racial factors in Dem runoff for Georgia Secretary of State

Sarah Y. Kim

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