ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia’s lieutenant governor, one of the most prominent Republicans to openly contradict false claims about fraud in the November presidential election, confirmed Monday as expected that he won’t seek reelection in 2022.
Republican Geoff Duncan was among the most high-profile Republicans to openly oppose Trump’s claims, angering many in his own party.
In Georgia, many other Republican officials have doubled down on unproven claims that Trump was cheated out of Georgia’s 16 electoral votes in November. Duncan said Monday that he will focus on building an advocacy organization called GOP 2.0 that “will focus on healing and rebuilding a Republican Party that is damaged but not destroyed.”
“GOP 2.0 will work hard every day reminding Americans the value of conservative policies through genuine empathy and a respectful tone,” Duncan said.
Duncan is also writing a book called “GOP 2.0: How the 2020 Election Can Lead to a Better Way Forward for America’s Conservative Party,” set for publication in September by Simon & Schuster.
“It always feels coldest right before the sun rises,” Duncan said in a statement released Monday. “I believe that is the exact moment in time the Republican Party is caught in right now, and I am committed to being a part of creating those better days ahead for our conservative party all across this country.”
Among Republicans considering a run in 2022 for lieutenant governor are state Sen. Burt Jones of Jackson and state Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller of Gainesville. Jones was among a group of Republican senators who sought legislative action to probe Trump’s claims and possibly overturn Georgia’s election results.
Speaking out against Trump has given Duncan a national platform and won him plaudits from moderates and even some Democrats. But it also has made him a target among the conservative base of the Republican Party, with Duncan censured multiple times Saturday by Republicans holding conventions in Georgia’s 14 congressional districts.
For instance, at the 11th Congressional District Republican convention in Cartersville, delegates passed a resolution rebuking Duncan for “conduct detrimental to the party” and calling for him to apologize. They said he “repeatedly denied the existence of election fraud and voting irregularities in the 2020 elections, and in doing so denigrated President Trump and countless Republican voters in Georgia for their beliefs.”
Duncan had said misinformation spread by Trump would hurt Republicans’ chances in two U.S. Senate runoffs held in January, which Democrats went on to sweep, giving them control of the chamber. He has also criticized as “punitive” parts of Georgia’s new election law, which sprang from Trump’s false claims.
The new law requires voters to present identification to request an absentee ballot, cuts days for requesting an absentee ballot, shortens early voting before runoff elections, provides fewer drop boxes than allowed during the pandemic, allows the state to take over county election offices and bars people from giving food and water to voters within 150 feet (45 meters) of a polling place.
In early March, Duncan refused to preside over a state Senate debate on a GOP-backed proposal that would have severely limited who could vote absentee by mail. The provision was not included in the final version of the bill that became law.
Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger also has been a critic of Trump’s efforts to subvert the election results and has said repeatedly that the election was free and fair. Raffensperger, who is running for reelection, is already being challenged by Republican U.S. Rep Jody Hice, who has been endorsed by Trump.