Former Georgia Republican leaders urge state GOP to focus on runoffs

More than a dozen former state GOP leaders penned a letter Wednesday urging current elected officials and Republican voters to shift their focus to the Jan. 5 runoffs for control of the U.S. Senate – and, more implicitly, away from the divisive infighting over President Donald Trump’s defeat.

The Republicans expressed “increasing concern” that the backlash over the November election will depress turnout, and called on Trump supporters to back U.S. Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue or risk a scenario where “the trajectory of our state and nation will be irreparably altered.”

The letter was inked by many of the most prominent former Republican officials in the state, including former Gov. Nathan Deal; ex-U.S. Sens. Saxby Chambliss, Johnny Isakson and Mack Mattingly; former Reps. Bob Barr and Jack Kingston and three former chairs of the state GOP.

Trump has intensified his attacks on Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger after Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia, and Republicans worry that the corrosive clashes and Trump’s false assertion of a “rigged” election will dampen voter enthusiasm for the runoffs.

Fearful that some of Trump’s loyalists will stay home, Donald Trump Jr. launched a super PAC this week that will air ads on conservative outlets prodding Republicans to vote against Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.

And a handful of state Republican officials have called on voters to ignore the misinformation spread by Trump and some of his supporters. Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan warned that the unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud risk “alienating” supporters in the long term.

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The letter doesn’t directly address Trump’s campaign to overturn Georgia’s election results. But it challenges conservatives to “realize that our common opponent is a Democratic party ideology that wishes to fundamentally alter the fabric of our nation into something unrecognizable.”

“Indeed, we have an obligation to assure every Georgia citizen - regardless of ideology - that free and fair elections are what distinguish our Republic from all others,” it reads.

“However, we cannot let this ongoing work detract from a mission that only Georgia Republicans can accomplish: maintaining control of the U.S. Senate so that our children and grandchildren can continue to enjoy the national security, economic opportunity and personal freedom that have defined our great nation since its Founding.”

Other signers include former Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Larry Thompson, who was once a top official in the Justice Department. It was also notable for the names not on the list, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who has amplified Trump’s claim that his victory was “stolen.”