Democrat Owens launches bid to be Georgia’s top election official

A Democratic insider with a background in cybersecurity launched a bid Tuesday to become Georgia’s top election official, promising to transform the secretary of state’s office into a force that can help businesses and county staffers counter new threats.

Michael Owens, a former Cobb County Democratic chair, framed himself as the only candidate with the mix of experience and political knowhow to flip the seat held by Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

“I could not stand by and not get in this race. It’s not just about elections. It’s about supporting our businesses,” said Owens, an information security officer at Equifax. “And I have to use this opportunity to put my unique skillsets to use.”

Owens has twice run unsuccessfully for the U.S. House, losing primary challenges in 2014 and 2020 to U.S. Rep. David Scott. He said hard-earned lessons will help guide him in the crowded Democratic race, where state Rep. Bee Nguyen has built a formidable edge in fundraising and endorsements.

A U.S. Marine Corps veteran, Owens led Cobb Democrats during a time of surging growth. He said his strategy helped Hillary Clinton flip the county for the first time in decades. He stepped down in 2019 to wage his second bid for Congress.

The race is poised to be one of the nation’s most-watched down-ballot elections.

Raffensperger has faced immense backlash from his party’s base for denying Donald Trump’s plea to “find” enough votes to reverse his defeat and debunking the former president’s lies that Georgia’s election was marred by widespread voting fraud.

Vowing to exact revenge, Trump endorsed U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, who has promoted the former president’s falsehoods about the election. The two are set to appear together at a rally in Perry this weekend.

Besides Nguyen, former Fulton County Commission Chair John Eaves and former Milledgeville Mayor Floyd Griffin are also running in the Democratic primary. On the GOP side, ex-Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle and former Treutlen County Probate Judge T.J. Hudson have joined Hice and Raffensperger in the race.

Owens said he would push the office to aggressively protect the right to vote after the passage of a Republican-backed law that imposes new restrictions on voting, including ID requirements for mail-in ballots and more limits on the availability of drop boxes.

He also emphasized plans to overhaul the government agency into a “people-facing office that’s friendlier to minority-owned businesses and entrepreneurs” and support companies facing new cyberthreats.