Jody Hice, a Republican congressman, announced Monday a run against the Georgia secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, who refused to overturn the state’s Nov. 3 election results, and former President Donald J. Trump immediately endorsed the new candidate.
Mr. Trump’s endorsement of Mr. Hice is the most prominent effort the former president and his aides have made to try to punish elected officials who they believe crossed Mr. Trump. Mr. Raffensperger, a Republican, is among the top targets for Mr. Trump, along with the state’s governor, Brian Kemp.
In a statement issued shortly after Mr. Hice announced his candidacy, Mr. Trump praised him as “one of our most outstanding congressmen,” and alluded to his own baseless claims of voter fraud, which he has said deprived him of victory in the state. “Unlike the current Georgia Secretary of State, Jody leads out front with integrity,’’ Mr. Trump said, adding “Jody will stop the Fraud and get honesty into our Elections!’’
Mr. Raffensperger and other Georgia election officials certified President Biden’s victory after conducting several recounts, and have said the results are fair and accurate.
Mr. Hice also served in the House Freedom Caucus with former Rep. Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s fourth and last chief of staff.
As he seeks to retain control of the Republican Party, Mr. Trump is determined to remain a kingmaker for down-ballot elections, while seeking retribution against those he perceives as having betrayed him. So far, he has endorsed only one other candidate running against someone he feels personally aggrieved by: Max Miller, a former White House aide, who is currently challenging Representative Anthony Gonzalez, a Republican representing Ohio’s 6th congressional district. Mr. Gonzalez was one of 10 House members who voted for Mr. Trump’s impeachment.
Mr. Hice’s challenge — against a Trump nemesis in a critical swing state — will be a more high-profile test of Mr. Trump’s political clout among Republicans.
The move to back Mr. Hice against the sitting secretary of state is also extraordinary given that Mr. Raffensperger has confirmed his office is investigating Mr. Trump’s attempts to influence the election, including the phone call the former president made to him. Mr. Trump is also under investigation by Fulton County prosecutors into whether he and others tried to improperly influence the election.
Mr. Raffensperger was on the receiving end of a now-infamous call in early January, in which Mr. Trump pushed baseless claims of widespread irregularities and asked the secretary of state to “find’’ enough votes to reverse the win for President Biden.
“All I want to do is this: I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have, because we won the state,” Mr. Trump said during the call.
Mr. Raffensperger repeatedly told him his data was wrong. “We have to stand by our numbers,” Mr. Raffensperger said. “We believe our numbers are right.”
Mr. Trump, when he had a Twitter feed, repeatedly attacked Mr. Raffensperger for not acceding to his demands.