Georgia 2022: Probate judge challenges Raffensperger in GOP race

T.J. Hudson resigned his position as a probate judge in Treutlen County to run for Georgia secretary of state as a Republican.
T.J. Hudson resigned his position as a probate judge in Treutlen County to run for Georgia secretary of state as a Republican.

A rural judge became the latest Republican candidate to join the race to unseat Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger with a campaign that will emphasize his experience supervising local elections.

T.J. Hudson resigned as Treutlen County’s probate judge this week and formally announced his race for a statewide post, joining U.S. Rep. Jody Hice and former Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle as candidates in the GOP primary.

“Experience matters, and I’ve had 17 years of election experience,” Hudson said. “The chief elections officer in the state of Georgia should have this type of experience.”

Hudson is a long-shot contender in a contest where even the incumbent is an underdog. Hice, a four-term congressman, entered the primary in March with former President Donald Trump’s endorsement, making him the favorite to oust Raffensperger in the primary.

Trump and his allies have promised to exact revenge against Raffensperger after he rejected falsehoods about widespread election fraud and defied the then-president’s demand to “find” enough votes to overturn the election.

The eventual GOP nominee is likely to face a tough Democratic challenge. State Rep. Bee Nguyen, an Atlanta Democrat and outspoken advocate for expanding voting rights, is widely expected to launch a campaign for the seat.

Hudson declined to say in an interview whether he would have backed Trump’s false claims of systemic voter fraud or pushed to invalidate the outcome of the state’s election, which was confirmed in three separate tallies. But he said “much could have been done better” to prepare local officials for the election.

“Elections officials weren’t given a fair chance. There was a lack of preparation for the brand-new voting system,” he said of the new voting machines that debuted in the last cycle, “and I’d do a better job of getting them prepared.”

In many larger counties, full-time managers are hired to supervise elections. But in rural areas such as Treutlen, a southeast Georgia county of roughly 7,000 people, probate judges serve as the supervisor of elections and carry out other duties, such as administering wills and issuing marriage licenses.

Hudson said the broad scope of responsibilities have given him a fundamental understanding of the statewide post, which oversees Georgia’s elections, grants professional licenses and maintains public records.

“I’m going to get out and let Georgians meet me and decide for themselves,” Hudson said. “If they meet me, I know I’m going to be their clear choice.”

Brian Kemp takes the oath of office to become Georgia’s 83rd governor while his wife, Marty, holds the Bible and his daughers look on. Judge T.J. Hudson is administering the oath. Photo: Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com
Brian Kemp takes the oath of office to become Georgia’s 83rd governor while his wife, Marty, holds the Bible and his daughers look on. Judge T.J. Hudson is administering the oath. Photo: Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com

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