ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia Democrats chose state Rep. Bee Nguyen as their nominee for secretary of state, a position that assumed new importance after former President Donald Trump cast doubt on Georgia’s 2020 election results by making false claims of widespread voter fraud.
Nguyen defeated former state Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler in the primary runoff Tuesday and is set to challenge Republican incumbent Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in November's general election. The significance of the position was highlighted by Raffensperger’s appearance as a witness Tuesday before the U.S. House Jan. 6 committee.
“For the first time in our state’s history, an Asian American woman is going to be a nominee on a statewide ticket," Nguyen, the daughter of Vietnamese immigrants, told supporters Tuesday night. “The question that I’ve been asked as I’ve been on this campaign trail for 14 months has been, ‘Will Georgians vote for an Asian candidate?’ The answer is yes, Georgians will.”
Meanwhile, Republicans had no statewide runoffs but were voting in four congressional races. Trump had endorsed candidates in two of those races and both were defeated.
In the 10th Congressional District east of Atlanta, trucking company owner Mike Collins beat former Democrat Vernon Jones, who had been endorsed by Trump, in a runoff to become the Republican nominee. Collins, the son of former congressman Mac Collins, was narrowly the frontrunner in the eight-candidate May primary, while Trump's endorsement helped push Jones into second place.
In the 6th District in Atlanta’s northern suburbs, emergency room physician Rich McCormick held off Trump-backed lawyer Jake Evans. That race has revolved around accusations by each candidate that the other was insufficiently conservative.
The secretary of state’s race was the most high-profile of four Democratic statewide runoffs, with nominees also being selected for lieutenant governor, labor commissioner and insurance commissioner.
Trump targeted Raffensperger after the 2020 general election for failing to overturn his narrow loss in the state. Raffensperger — who won the praise of some Democrats for refusing to bend to pressure from the former president — dispatched a challenge from a Trump-endorsed primary challenger without being forced into a runoff.
With Trump and his allies pushing false claims of widespread voter fraud in Georgia, Nguyen highlighted her work in the General Assembly to debunk false narratives and stand up for voting rights.
“We will remind Georgians that Brad Raffensperger ain’t our friend and we deserve better," Nguyen told supporters. "We deserve a secretary of state who will uphold the law and protect our freedom to vote. We can have both, y’all.”
She has served in the state House since winning a 2017 special election to succeed Stacey Abrams in a district that includes parts of the city of Atlanta and is vice chair of the state Democratic Party. Abrams, who endorsed Nguyen in the runoff, is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor after narrowly losing the election to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in 2018.
A statement from Nguyen's campaign included comments from many of the state's top Democrats touting her strengths. Abrams said Nguyen is "a lifelong advocate for the people of Georgia, and her work on the front lines to protect our democracy and the freedom to vote exemplifies the courage and tenacity needed in our next Secretary of State.”
Dawkins-Haigler called the Democratic primary campaign “spirited” but said her low fundraising haul and lack of party backing stacked the deck against her in the runoff.
"However, we still ran a race full of integrity, and now that it’s over I’m going to make sure that the Democrats still try to win in November,” she said in a phone interview.
There were few policy differences between Nguyen and Dawkins-Haigler with both stressing the need to increase voter education and work more closely with local election boards to ensure universal access to free, fair and secure elections. They both also said Raffensperger is no election hero, targeting his endorsement of a sweeping election overhaul passed last year by Republican state lawmakers.
In southwest Georgia’s 2nd Congressional District, Republicans have high hopes of knocking off 30-year Democratic incumbent Rep. Sanford Bishop. GOP voters chose real estate developer Chris West over former Army officer Jeremy Hunt in that race.
In the other statewide Democratic races, Charlie Bailey beat Kwanza Hall for lieutenant governor, William Boddie defeated Nicole Horn for labor commissioner, and Janice Laws Robinson bested Raphael Baker for insurance commissioner.