OPINION: The Democrats voting in the GOP primary say it’s all about Donald Trump

December 5, 2020 Valdosta - President Donald Trump speaks during Republican National Committee's Victory Rally at the Valdosta Flying Services in Valdosta on Saturday, December 5, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

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December 5, 2020 Valdosta - President Donald Trump speaks during Republican National Committee's Victory Rally at the Valdosta Flying Services in Valdosta on Saturday, December 5, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Who exactly are the Georgia Democrats voting in this year’s Republican primary and what are they up to?

That’s been the question we at the AJC have been getting since we reported Monday that our voting data expert, Mark Niesse, had crunched the numbers on Georgia’s record-high early voting tallies. Among other takeaways, he found that about 16,000 voters who chose Democratic ballots two years ago were among the 237,000 who voted in the GOP primary by the end of last week.

That’s a 7% crossover rate and dwarfs the 1% rate of previous Republican ballot voters choosing a Democratic ballot this year.

The usual theory for crossover voting involves a grand scheme by one party to sabotage the strongest potential contender from the other party.

That’s legal under Georgia law, since voters can choose any ballot they want for primary elections. But it’s also never been proven to work.

It also wasn’t the motivation for the crossover voters I spoke with this week, who all said they had one reason for choosing a GOP ballot this year: Donald Trump.

Trump lost the Georgia election in 2020 by about 12,000 votes and is a subject of a Special Grand Jury investigation in Fulton County for possible election fraud after trying repeatedly to overturn the election results.

Furious at Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger for not helping him with his scheme, Trump recruited primary challengers for them and other GOP officials up and down the ticket in Georgia’s upcoming primaries Tuesday.

Democrats, in particular, said they’ve had enough and voted in the GOP primary to stop Trump one more time.

“I felt very weird, but I’m also really glad I did it because I really do feel like democracy is on the line,” said Mitchel Boudin, a 37-year-old self-described liberal from Atlanta. “We’ve got people who are not committed to even upholding the democratic system.”

Boudin said he’s “not a fan of Kemp,” but voted for the governor because “David Perdue has based his whole campaign around lies. I just don’t know where he would take things.”

Boudin also voted for Brad Raffensperger for Secretary of State.

“I feel like Raffensperger, while he’s from the Republican Party, I do trust he will conduct elections fairly. He took a stance and stood up for it.” But Hice, he said, “lies about elections and I would not trust him to administer it fairly in 2024.”

Boudin plans to vote a Democratic ticket in November, but knowing Georgia is a toss-up state, he wanted to help pick the Republican nominee in case he wins in November.

Price Bliss, a Dunwoody Democrat who works in the aviation industry, said he voted for Brian Kemp in the GOP primary because of how closely has Perdue aligned himself with Trump since the election.

“Perdue seems to be the bigger threat of the two, so I figured, Why not just try to make sure that he doesn’t make it to the next stage?” Bliss said.

But when Bliss called Perdue “a threat,” he didn’t mean a threat to Democrats in November. He meant a threat to democracy itself.

“The fact that Kemp was willing to stay within the legal bounds tells me at least somewhere there’s a decent moral code,” Bliss said. “I just hate to think if that situation ever came up again, that Perdue may at least attempt to find a way to get around [the results] even if it wasn’t necessarily legal.”

Bliss said he’s not 100% satisfied with the job Joe Biden is doing in the White House, but he will vote for Democrats up and down the ballot in November.

Other Democrats I spoke with said they would have voted in the Democratic primary to support Stacey Abrams and Raphael Warnock. But without significant competition for the party’s highest-profile candidates, they wanted to make sure Trump candidates don’t get past the GOP primaries.

Bob Herndon, a DeKalb Democrat, didn’t vote for governor at all. “Honestly, I can’t vote for either one of them,” he said of Kemp and Perdue.

But he voted for Raffensperger for Secretary of State.

“It’s really important for me to make sure that Brad Raffensperger doesn’t get beaten by Jody Hice and give the Trump arm of the Republican Party access to the Secretary of State’s tools to throw out ballots and be dishonest,” he said.

Herndon also called Gary Black an excellent Secretary of Agriculture and picked him over Herschel Walker. “It just seems so unfair that, as with Trump, celebrity is more important than qualifications.”

Dawn Rogers, a Republican from Woodstock told me that between gas prices and baby food shortages, said she’s spoken with Democrats frustrated with their own party who voted for Kemp and Raffensperger as she did.

“With David Perdue, he seemed to me to be more of a talking Trump puppet,” she said. And Raffensperger, she said, “Stood up for the law.”

Emma in Atlanta asked that I use only her first name. She voted for Stacey Abrams in 2018 and Joe Biden in 2020, but she crossed over to vote for Kemp and Raffensperger earlier this week.

“If there’s anything I can do to keep Trump or his people off the ballot, I’ll do it,” she said.

Unlike Herndon, she said she’s open to voting for Kemp and Raffensperger again in November. “They both stood up to Trump, which says a lot.”

The great irony of all of this is that by setting out to bring down Kemp, Raffensperger, and the rest of the GOP incumbents, Trump is daring Georgia voters, including Democrats, to defeat his allies on Tuesday the same way they did in 2020 and 2021.

Had Trump given Georgia’s election laws an ounce of thought, he would have seen this coming.