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Sunday, January 17, 2021

Georgia election fraud claims fuel GOP fears of losing Senate

Charges of election fraud by President Trump and his legal advisors are tripping up Republicans in Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoffs and stoking fears that the GOP majority in the upper chamber could be put at risk.

Republicans worry the charges of a rigged election in the Republican-run state will turn off their party’s voters and hand the elections to Democrats.

Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are trying to strike a delicate balance between backing Mr. Trump’s claims and making sure voters have enough faith in the electoral system to turn out in January.

“Right now it seems there is chaos and that is the worry — that this could keep Republicans from turning out the vote,” said David Johnson, a Georgia-based GOP strategist.

The accusations are exacerbating lingering intraparty feuds in the Georgia GOP and forcing Mr. Perdue and Ms. Loeffler to navigate choppy political waters ahead of the Jan. 5 showdowns with Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, respectively.

The runoff contests will determine whether the GOP protects its Senate majority. Democrats must win both seats to seize control of the chamber.

The state is undergoing its third recount since Election Day. The latest tally found that presumed President-elect Joseph R. Biden carried the state by 12,000 votes.

Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger have faced intense pressure from Mr. Trump and his allies to put the full force of their offices behind their claims of voter fraud and corruption.

The infighting escalated when Sidney Powell, who was working with Mr. Trump’s legal team at the time, told Newsmax TV on Saturday that the corruption cuts across both parties, and implicated Mr. Kemp in the scheme.

She vowed to “blow up” the Georgia election results with a “biblical” legal challenge.

“Mr. Kemp and the secretary of state need to go with it because they are in on the Dominion [voting machine] scam with their last-minute purchase or award of a contract to Dominion of $100 million,” she said. “The state bureau of investigation for Georgia ought to be looking into financial benefits received by Mr. Kemp and the secretary of state’s family about that time.”

Soon after, Mr. Trump’s top attorneys — Rudolph W. Giuliani and Jenna Ellis — disavowed Ms. Powell in a statement, saying “she is not a member of the Trump Legal Team” and saying she is “not a lawyer for the President in his personal capacity.”

Ms. Powell said she would continue to “represent #WeThePeople who had their votes for Trump and other Republicans stolen through Dominion and Smartmatic” electronic voting systems.

Dominion has said Ms. Powell’s accusations are bogus.

Ms. Loeffler and Mr. Perdue have tried to stay in the good graces of Mr. Trump and his loyal backers by supporting the calls for a recount. They also released a joint statement earlier this month calling on Mr. Raffensperger, the Republican secretary of state charged with overseeing the elections, to step down.

Mr. Raffensperger has refused to do so and says the fraud claims are baseless.

Some Georgia Republicans have taken the fraud accusations a step further, suggesting they could have hurt Republican Rep. Doug Collins’ chances of beating Ms. Loeffler in the jungle-style special election, either winning the election outright or advancing to the runoff.

Ms. Loeffler was appointed by Mr. Kemp in January to fill the seat temporarily after Sen. Johnny Isakson’s sudden retirement due to ill health. She had the governor’s support in the Nov. 3. special election to finish the remaining two years of Mr. Isakson’s term.

Mr. Collins had the support of Georgia House Speaker David Ralston and spent his final day on the campaign trail with Trump ally Roger Stone.

Mr. Stone popped back onto the scene this week after The Daily Beast reported that he and conservative operatives in the state are urging Trump supporters to sit out the Georgia runoff races or write-in Mr. Trump’s name as a way to stick it to Republicans for not doing more to support the president’s efforts to overturn the election.

Lin Wood, the president’s personal attorney, echoed that message over the weekend.

“Want to get @SenLoeffler & @sendavidperdue out of their basements to demand that action must be taken to fix steal of the 11/3 GA election?” he said in a Tweet Sunday. “Threaten to withhold your votes & money. Demand that they represent you.”

But Donald Trump Jr. pushed back against such boycott calls.

“I’m seeing a lot of talk from people that are supposed to be on our side telling GOP voters not to go out & vote for @KLoeffler and @PerdueSenate,” he wrote.”That is NONSENSE. IGNORE those people. We need ALL of our people coming out to vote for Kelly & David.”

Looking to break through the noise, Mr. Perdue on Tuesday urged voters to recognize the two runoff contests will determine whether Democrats are positioned to advance their “liberal, radical, socialist agenda.”

“We are the last line of defense now,” Mr. Perdue said Tuesday on “Fox and Friends.”

“These two Senate seats here will determine the majority in the Senate and because of that we are going to deny [Senate Minority Leader Chuck] Schumer that majority, protect everything President Trump has accomplished in the last four years, and make sure the people in Georgia know that.”

Jay Williams, a Georgia-based GOP consultant, said all the finger-pointing and accusations have been a “distraction” for Mr. Perdue and Ms. Loeffler.

“It is not ideal, and it is frankly not smart,” Mr. Williams said.

Still, he remained optimistic the GOP would come together in the name of keeping the Senate.

“I don’t get the sense that a lot of rank-and-file Republicans are going to boycott this thing,” he said.


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