June 22, 2022

By Joshua Graham Lynn, CEO and Co-Founder, RepresentUs

In Georgia’s May primary election, several “Big Lie” candidates were defeated by large margins. These candidates all embraced the false claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential election. They set out to defeat candidates who stood on the right side of truth, history and American democracy. 

These election results dealt a blow to ongoing attempts to undermine the 2020 election. And while concerning anti-democracy trends still exist in other states, Georgia’s results show that conservative candidates don’t need to give into the “Big Lie” to win elections. 

What is the Big Lie?

The “Big Lie” refers to former President Donald Trump’s attempts to claim that voter fraud occurred in states, including Georgia, as part of a scheme to rig the election and remove him from office. Despite numerous audits and more than 50 lawsuits confirming President Joe Biden’s win, Trump continues to falsely claim that he won the 2020 election. To make matters worse, many Republican candidates across the country are now campaigning on this very lie.

How the “Big Lie” impacted Georgia’s primary

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp, both Republicans, played key roles in pushing back against the Big Lie in the aftermath of the 2020 election. On January 2, 2021, Trump called Raffensperger and ordered him to “find 11,780 votes.” That was precisely the number of votes needed to win the state. 

Putting country over party, Raffensperger denied Trump’s request, telling the president, “the data you have is wrong." Raffensperger has also agreed to testify under oath to a special grand jury in Georgia that is investigating Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. 

Gov. Kemp also refused Trump’s demands that he overturn the 2020 election results. Like he did with Raffensperger, Trump called Gov. Kemp in December 2020 urging him to persuade state legislators to overturn the election results in Georgia. Despite calling for audits, Kemp ultimately rejected Trump’s requests to overturn the election. Formerly a prominent Trump ally, Gov. Kemp lost Trump’s support — but won the support of millions of Americans — after he publicly made the choice to stand up for democracy.

Because they courageously stood up for free and secure elections, Raffensberger and Kemp faced withering criticism from Trump. Because of that criticism, they were subjected to threats and harassment.

Ahead of the 2022 primary elections, Trump attempted to unseat Raffensperger and Kemp by endorsing Big Lie candidates who believed the 2020 election was “stolen”.

Rep. Jody Hice, who the former president endorsed for secretary of state, was a big supporter of Trump’s efforts to overturn the election. Not only did he vote to reject the election results on January 6, he also attended a White House strategy meeting in December 2020 to plan how to overturn the election results. Rep. Hice campaigned largely on promoting Trump’s “Big Lie,” but ended up losing by nearly 20 points to Raffensperger. 

In the governor’s race, Trump endorsed former Sen. David Perdue. Similarly, Perdue parroted Big Lie talking points and relentlessly talked about a stolen election. Perdue even requested that some 2020 ballots be inspected – a request that a Georgia judge based on “speculation, conjecture and paranoia.” Ultimately, Perdue lost by more than 50 points to Gov. Kemp, as Georgia voters rejected the false claims of voter fraud that Sen. Purdue campaigned on.

Looking forward

These election results represent promising victories for pro-democracy conservatives in the face of conspiratorialists who continue to undermine the 2020 election and raise the specter of autocratic takeover. Yet there are still major threats to American democracy. Election deniers have won primaries for governor in Arkansas and Pennsylvania

If they win in November, 2020 election deniers will be in charge of these states, which increases the threat of future attempts to steal elections and undermine American democracy. Meanwhile, states across the country, including Georgia, have passed laws that make it harder to vote. 

There remains much work to do in safeguarding our elections and improving American democracy. Ensuring that these “Big Lie” candidates do not win this November is crucial, as is pushing for elections that are accessible for all American voters. No matter what party someone may support, standing up for American democracy is crucial to the work that RepresentUs is undertaking. We’re working hard to combat these threats to American democracy, and we need your support to continue this fight. 

Contributors: Adam DuBard, RepresentUs Political Analyst; Ally Marcella, RepresentUs Research Analyst

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RepresentUs is America’s leading anti-corruption organization working city-by-city, state-by-state to fix our broken political system.