Georgia’s top elections official, a Republican, dismissed a call to resign from Sens. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) and David Perdue (R-GA) on Monday, telling them in no uncertain terms to focus on their own upcoming races for reelection.
“Earlier today Senators Loeffler and Perdue called for my resignation,” Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) said at the top of a lengthy statement. “Let me start by saying that is not going to happen.”
What followed was an aggressive response to the paragraph-long criticism from the Georgia Republicans. Both senators are up for reelection in two Jan. 5 runoff contests that could determine the partisan balance of the U.S. Senate.
The senators said “the management of Georgia elections has become an embarrassment for our state.” They accused Raffensperger of “failures” but offered no specifics, other than unexplained concerns about “mismanagement and lack of transparency.”
Raffensperger, whose office has held regular press conferences and released information daily on the ballot-counting process, wasn’t having it.
“I know emotions are running high,” he said. “Politics are involved in everything right now. If I was Senator Perdue, I’d be irritated I was in a runoff. And both Senators and I are all unhappy with the potential outcome for our President.”
That appeared to be a reference to the narrow margin by which Perdue failed to win his race: The Republican has received 49.7% of the vote in his race against Democrat Jon Ossoff with 99% of expected ballots tallied, according to the Associated Press. Because that falls just shy of the 50% threshold to avoid a runoff, the pair will compete in a runoff election in January. Loeffler also failed to clear the 50% threshold and will face off against Democrat Raphael Warnock in January. The results of the races could determine the partisan balance of the U.S. Senate.
Joe Biden leads Donald Trump by more than 11,000 votes in the state, but no major networks have called the state yet for either candidate.
Raffensperger was hardly non-partisan in his statement: He referred to Fulton County, where an investigation into a minor reporting error is ongoing, as “one of our longtime problem Democrat-run counties.”
Separately, the secretary said he was “sure” there had been illegal voting, though he offered no evidence to back up the claim.
“Was there illegal voting? I am sure there was,” Raffensperger wrote. “And my office is investigating all of it.”
“Does it rise to the numbers or margin necessary to change the outcome to where President Trump is given Georgia’s electoral votes? That is unlikely,” he added.
The Republican closed his remarks with a jab at Loeffler and Perdue.
“My job is to follow Georgia law and see to it that all legal votes, and no illegal votes, are counted properly and accurately,” he wrote. “As Secretary of State, that is my duty, and I will continue to do my duty. As a Republican, I am concerned about Republicans keeping the U.S. Senate. I recommend that Senators Loeffler and Perdue start focusing on that.”
Tierney Sneed contributed reporting.