An endorsement from former President Donald Trump could help shape the outcome of the four-way Republican primary for Georgia’s open lieutenant governor race.
Burt Jones — a Jackson Republican and state senator who has supported Trump’s conspiracy theories that his 2020 election was stolen — has led in several polls of potential primary voters, sometimes by double digits.
Jones is facing his colleague, Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller of Flowery Branch, as well as Republican activist Jeanne Seaver of Savannah and first-time candidate Mack McGregor of Lafayette. The winner in November will take on Libertarian candidate Ryan Graham and the winner of a nine-way Democratic primary.
A University of Georgia poll released last week found that of those with a preference, nearly 30% of Republican voters said they would vote for Jones. Miller was the next closest, with about 11% saying they plan to vote for the senator. A little more than 4% of voters backed McGregor, and Seaver got the support of 1% of those polled.
But the numbers changed drastically when voters were told that Trump endorsed Jones, with nearly 59% saying they would support the candidate backed by the former president.
“The Trump endorsement plays well for those of us who are not known statewide,” said Jones, who was first elected in 2012. “People don’t have an opinion on you one way or another, so the Trump endorsement shows credibility with Republican voters.”
They are vying for the job being vacated by Republican Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who is not seeking another term. Duncan announced last spring that he wouldn’t run for a second term as Georgia’s No. 2 official after criticizing Trump’s refusal to accept the results of the 2020 presidential election, which he lost to Democrat Joe Biden.
The lieutenant governor serves as president of the Georgia Senate.
All four candidates say the 2020 election is proof Georgia’s election system is vulnerable to fraud, that “divisive” concepts about race shouldn’t be taught in schools and children should play sports in schools according to the gender on their birth certificate.
They all say that they want to ensure that the office remains under conservative control.
“We have the opportunity of a lifetime in Georgia to keep Georgia on the right track,” Miller said. “We’re a great place to raise a family. We’re a great place to retire. And we’ve accomplished that through conservative legislation, conservative principles and conservative policies.”
Seaver, who launched her campaign in February 2021, before Duncan announced he wouldn’t run, said she’s frustrated with the Senate leadership. Seaver pointed to Duncan declining to preside over the debate of a broad elections law passed in response to Trump’s claims of fraud last year as the impetus to go from volunteer to candidate. Miller presided in Duncan’s place when the voting bill came up.
“I’ve been traveling around the state for 22 years helping get conservatives elected, and Georgians are not very happy with our elected officials these days,” she said. “They don’t think they’re listening to them, and they’re not feeling represented.”
Seaver, who in 2010 finished third in a four-way GOP primary race in the 12th Congressional District, said she has pushed elected officials to eliminate the state income tax for about 15 years — a topic that’s gotten a lot of attention from Republican politicians this election season.
Miller this past session filed legislation to eliminate the state income tax, which provides the government with more than half of its revenue to operate schools and public health care programs, build roads, incarcerate criminals and police highways. During a committee hearing Miller said filing the bill was meant to start a conversation, and no action was taken on the measure.
McGregor said he is running because he felt unheard by politicians running the state and nation. McGregor, a former Marine, said after complaining to his granddaughter about politics, she asked him what he was going to do about it.
“I never did think as a Marine that one day I would literally have to be fighting for America inside America, but here we are,” he said.
McGregor said his goal if elected would be to root out corruption, saying that he doesn’t trust the results of any of the elections from the past several years.
“The state has been cheating at elections for a really long time,” he said, claiming without citing any evidence that the Diebold machines previously used by the state were corrupt as well as the Dominion Voting Systems machines currently used.
The two state senators are leading in the fundraising race.
As of Jan. 30, the most recent campaign filing deadline, Jones reported raising $3.8 million in contributions, receiving about $1.8 million in donations and loaning $2 million of his own money to the campaign. Miller reported raising $3.4 million since announcing his candidacy last May. Seaver reported raising about $36,000 by Jan. 30, McGregor $1,000.