Georgia Republican who resisted Trump insists he stands for ‘integrity and truth’

<span>Photograph: Dustin Chambers/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Dustin Chambers/Reuters

The Republican who memorably resisted Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn his election defeat in Georgia has said he will run for re-election on a platform of “integrity and truth”, against an opponent who as a churchman “should know better” than to advance the former president’s lies.

Related: Capitol attack: Trump not immune from criminal referral, lawmakers insist

Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, became a household name after he turned down Trump’s demand that he “find 11,780 votes” in order to overturn Joe Biden’s win in the southern state. It was the first victory by a Democrat in a presidential race in Georgia since 1992.

The call is among subjects of an investigation by the district attorney of Fulton county into whether Trump and others committed crimes in their push to overturn election results in the state.

On Monday, Fani Willis told the Associated Press she expected to make a decision in the case in the first half of this year.

“We’re going to just get the facts, get the law, be very methodical, very patient and, in some extent, unemotional about this quest for justice,” she said.

In this year’s elections, Raffensperger will face off against Jody Hice, a pastor, US congressman and Trump acolyte.

“Congressman Hice, he’s been in Congress for several years,” Raffensperger said on Sunday, on CBS’s Face the Nation. “He’s never done a single piece of election reform legislation.

“Then he certified his own race with those same machines, the same ballots [that were used for the presidential election]. And yet for President Trump, he said you couldn’t trust that.

“That’s a double-minded person. And as a pastor, he should know better. So, I’m going to run on integrity and I’m going to run on the truth. I don’t know what he’s going to run on.”

Hice played a key role in legal and political attempts to overturn the 2020 election result.

Writing for the Guardian to mark the anniversary of the 6 January Capitol attack, in which Trump supporters failed to stop Congress certifying the election result, the former Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal said that as the riot unfolded, Hice “raced by a Democratic colleague, who told me Hice was screaming into his phone: ‘You screwed it up, y’all screwed it all up!’”

Hice, Blumenthal wrote, “was tasked to present a challenge to Georgia’s electors … as part of the far-rightwing Republican faction, the Freedom Caucus, directed by Congressman Jim Jordan, of Ohio, who was in constant touch that day with Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff and former Freedom Caucus member, and a watchful Trump himself.

“Just as the violent insurrection launched, and paramilitary groups spearheaded medieval style hand-to-hand combat against the police and burst into the Capitol, Hice posted on Instagram a photo of himself headed into the House chamber with the caption, ‘This is our 1776 moment.’”

Hice deleted that post and said he condemned the violence at the Capitol.

In an email to the Guardian, a spokeswoman for Hice said the congressman denied “any phone calls on 6 January remotely similar to what Mr Blumenthal describes”. The spokeswoman also said Hice was not in the Capitol when it went into lockdown.

But Hice formally objected to results in Arizona and Pennsylvania and voted against investigation of the attack. The select committee is reportedly interested in his own phone records as Hice remains a vocal proponent of the lie that Trump lost due to electoral fraud, a lie believed by clear majorities of Republicans.

Hice announced his run to be secretary of state in Georgia, last March, later gaining Trump’s endorsement. Should he win, he will be in charge of state election counts.

Many outside the Republican party fear the prospect of Trump allies filling such posts in battleground states, preparatory to another attempt to overturn a presidential election.

“It’s certainly not by accident that we’re seeing individuals who don’t believe in democracy aspire to be our states’ chief election officers, particularly in the states that were under the greatest spotlight in 2020,” Jocelyn Benson, Michigan secretary of state, told the Guardian earlier this month.

Raffensperger and Governor Brian Kemp, however, have placed Georgia among Republican-run states which have implemented election laws which critics say aim to restrict Democratic turnout.

Related: Democracy under attack: how Republicans led the effort to make it harder to vote

Asked about visits to Georgia this week by Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris, to promote federal voting rights protections, Raffensperger told CBS: “6 January was terrible, but the response doesn’t need to be eliminating photo ID and then having same-day registration.

“If you don’t have the appropriate guardrails in place, then you’re not going to have voter confidence in the results.”

Pressed on claims by figures including the Georgia gubernatorial candidate and voting rights campaigner Stacey Abrams that state election law is skewed against people of colour, Raffensperger heralded provisions for early voting and said: “I think that we have shown that Georgia has fair and honest elections. We have record registrations. We have record turnout.”

He also said he was confident Hice would not take over the elections process.

“The results will be the results,” Raffensperger said, “and those will be the results that will be certified. You cannot overturn the will of the people and so that won’t matter.

“But at the end of the day, I will be re-elected, and he will not be.”