ATLANTA (AP) - Former President Donald Trump is declaring his opposition to a high-ranking Georgia Republican’s bid for lieutenant governor, another sign of how state-level politics is being reordered by Trump‘s insistence that all Republicans repudiate his 2020 election loss.
Trump invited other Republicans to run against Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller in the statement released late Wednesday.
“I will not be supporting or endorsing Sen. Butch Miller, running for lieutenant governor of Georgia, because of his refusal to work with other Republican senators on voter fraud and irregularities in the state,” Trump said. “Hopefully there will be strong and effective primary challengers for the very important lieutenant governor position!”
Trump weighed in as state Sen. Burt Jones of Jackson considers seeking the GOP nomination to succeed Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, whose support among Republicans collapsed after his outspoken defense of the Georgia election results that gave Joe Biden a narrow victory.
Miller has not gone as far as Jones in promoting the false claim that Trump was cheated out of 16 electoral votes, but he counts Georgia’s restrictive new elections law among his top accomplishments, and said voters will support him as a conservative who gets things done.
“The work I have done and the message that I have broadcast over the years will be judged by the people of Georgia,” Miller told WDUN-AM on Thursday. “And I believe the people of Georgia will respond appropriately.”
Miller noted that he presided over the Senate during part of the election law debate, when Duncan retreated to his office.
“I presided when others would not preside. I stepped up,” Miller said during the radio interview. “I intend to stand in the gap and run my own race and not worry about others.”
The other Republicans in the race are Jeanne Seaver of Savannah and Mack McGregor of Lafayette.
Jones, of Jackson, was stripped of his committee chair post in January after calling for a special session to consider action to overturn Biden’s victory. Unlike Miller, Jones also signed a court brief supporting a failed lawsuit by Texas officials challenging election results in Georgia and other states.
Jones’ demotion may have had more to do with the internal politics of the Senate after he lost a leadership challenge to Miller, but he has worn his demotion as a badge of honor for supporting Trump.
Miller had previously finessed whether Trump would endorse him, and tweeted his praises on Monday, saying “No matter what the liberal media says, Donald Trump is the LEADER of this party - and I will proudly continue to support his America First agenda!”
After Trump let him down, Miller said his opponents are probably misleading Trump, adding that he‘s been “misinformed, either intentionally or incidentally” about his record.
Jones, meanwhile, tweeted his approval of Trump’s attack on Miller. “Well said, Mr. President! I will continue fighting for election integrity in our state. Stay tuned!”
Miller, who co-owns a Gainesville car dealership, has strong support from business interests, raising $2 million in the first five weeks of his candidacy.
Jones appeared Tuesday in Rome with U.S. Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene and other GOP activists at an “Election Integrity Town Hall,” the first of seven such meetings statewide. Organizers handed out “Trump Won” signs to attendees, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Georgia’s election results have become a fault line in the party. Embattled Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger faces Trump-endorsed primary challenger U.S. Rep Jody Hice for another term. Duncan said he’d build GOP 2.0, an effort to heal a damaged party through empathy and respect. And Gov. Brian Kemp faces a pesky primary challenge from recent GOP convert Vernon Jones, who has made attacking the results the centerpiece of his campaign and who is openly courting a Trump endorsement.
Trump has repeatedly attacked Kemp and Raffensperger, fixating on them as contributors to his loss. Trump supporters who believe he was cheated have flowed into county and state Republican party organizations, backing GOP officers who support that position.
Georgia’s lieutenant governor has relatively little power in law, with senators deciding how strong they want the office to be. Miller may be more powerful as president pro tem, but might be able to use support among Republican senators to amass strength in the office.
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