ATLANTA — Far more than in Georgia's races for governor and Senate, it is the campaign for Secretary of State in which lingering conservative discontent over the 2020 election appears to be a major factor.
A new poll by 11Alive shows incumbent Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger in a tight GOP primary race with Rep. Jody Hice, who has declined a congressional reelection run to try and unseat Raffensperger.
Hice is a close ally of former President Donald Trump and was among Georgia's most fervent proponents in 2020 of the various narratives that claimed the state's presidential election results had been manipulated.
Raffensperger, as secretary of state, oversaw those elections and fiercely maintained they had been free of systemic fraud.
11Alive's poll, conducted by SurveyUSA from April 22-27 with more than 550 likely GOP primary voters, suggests the two are on a collision course for a runoff.
On the Democratic side, meanwhile, state Rep. Bee Nguyen leads a field looking to earn the loyalty of primary voters who, at this point, are 60% undecided.
The 11Alive poll suggests Raffensperger faces a stiffer challenge from a Trump-backed insurgent than Gov. Brian Kemp.
Looming large is a 40% block of respondents in the poll who said they were still undecided. If those voters broke strongly for either Raffensperger or Hice, they could tip the race and allow a candidate to avoid a runoff.
If they split roughly evenly, a runoff may be inevitable.
If you were filling out your Republican primary ballot for Secretary of State today, who would you vote for?
- David Belle Isle - 4%
- Jody Hice - 20%
- T.J. Hudson - 5%
- Brad Raffensperger - 31%
- Undecided - 40%
There is a clear ideological split in this race - among those self-identifying as "very conservative," Raffensperger maintains a narrow 29-26% lead over Hice, while among those who self-identify as just "conservative," the incumbent secretary of state leads 33-21%.
Those who self-classify as "moderate" voters also favor Raffensperger substantially, 32-13%.
For voters who identify "election integrity" as their top issue - 5% of respondents to the poll - Hice leads 26-23%. And for those who list immigration as their main priority - 15% of respondents - Hice leads 36-17%.
However, 44% of respondents listed the economy as their top issue, and among those voters, Raffensperger leads 33-18%. And among the 11% who listed crime, Raffensperger leads 40-12%.
Among the 87% of GOP primary respondents who voted for Trump in 2020, Raffensperger leads 29-23%. Among the small minority who voted for President Joe Biden - 8% of respondents - Raffensperger leads 55-2%.
11Alive's polling here suggests a crowded field that has not yet made a huge impact on Democratic voters.
The front-runner is state Rep. Bee Nguyen. She boasts the most name recognition in the field and the most institutional support - with endorsements from U.S. Rep Hank Johnson, dozens of prominent local and state Democrats as well as liberal organizations including Emily's List and NARAL Pro-Choice America.
Her closest challenger, according to the 11Alive poll, is Marine veteran, cybersecurity expert and former Cobb County Democratic Party chairman Michael Owens. His endorsements include former Gov. Roy Barnes.
Former state Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler, who chaired the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus from 2013-17; Dr. John Eaves, a former Fulton County commissioner endorsed by Rev. Gerald Durley and Cobb Sheriff Craig Owens, among others; and Floyd Griffin, a retired Army colonel, former state senator and mayor of Milledgeville are all also in the race.
11Alive's polling indicates they're all still looking to break through to Georgia Democrats, who are largely undecided on this race:
The full results:
If you were filling out your Democratic primary ballot for Secretary of State today, who would you vote for?
- Dee Hawkins-Haigler- 7%
- John Eaves - 7%
- Floyd Griffin - 6%
- Bee Nguyen - 12%
- Michael Owens - 9%
- Undecided - 60%