Enterprise-Record (Chico)

Key Republican wants Ga. as early primary state

- By Bill Barrow

ATLANTA >> Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensper­ger wants his state to become an early presidenti­al primary host — just not in 2024, as President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party are pushing.

The Republican election chief, who garnered attention for rebuffing then-President Donald Trump's efforts to overturn his 2020 loss in Georgia, told The Associated Press he'd back an early primary in 2028.

It's the first time Raffensper­ger, who sets Georgia's primary election dates, has endorsed the idea of Georgia as an early nominating state, though not as soon as the Democratic National Committee and the White House want.

“Georgia would be a great early primary state in 2028,” Raffensper­ger told the AP.

“It has a good cross-section of engaged voters from both parties, and, as everyone seems to now recognize, we run great elections,” the secretary added in a dig at Democrats' assertions that he and Republican Gov. Brian Kemp have worked to limit ballot access.

Raffensper­ger's position highlights the Democrats' challenge in reordering their nominating calendar to elevate racially diverse electorate­s and deemphasiz­e Iowa and New Hampshire. Those overwhelmi­ngly white states have opened the nominating process for both major parties for decades and still lead Republican­s' 2024 calendar as it's currently set — with national GOP officials showing little interest in reconsider­ing their slate.

The secretary's announceme­nt nonetheles­s shows Democrats aren't alone in wanting Georgia, now a premier general election battlegrou­nd, to expand its burgeoning influence into presidenti­al nominating politics.

The question is whether Democrats can find momentum among the Republican­s who control the Georgia statehouse and with the national GOP forces necessary to make such a change. That's decidedly harder than Atlanta's push to win the 2024 Democratic convention, a decision that will be made entirely within the party.

Top Georgia Democrats including Sen. Raphael Warnock and U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams of Atlanta support a presidenti­al primary move, and the state party's former executive director, Scott Hogan, has taken on the role of the top unofficial lobbyist for the idea, reaching out to Republican­s and the business community.

“This isn't just a political conversati­on. This is very much an economic conversati­on,” said Williams, who is also the state Democratic chairwoman. “It's a benefit across the board, whether Republican­s or Democrats.”

Audrey Haynes, a University of Georgia professor tracking the debate, cited studies showing how much more influentia­l an average American voter becomes when they live in an early nominating state. The economic boon, she added, ranges from candidates' television advertisin­g to a year's worth of tourism and consumer spending by traveling national media and the top campaigns' permanent field staffers.

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