Voters from all political walks of life push back against Trump’s nominees

Washington

Diane Murray struggled with her decision until Election Day.

But when the time came, the Georgia Democrat voted in last week’s Republican primary for Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. While state law allowed her to participate in either party’s primaries, she said voting Republican was a violation of her core values. But it had to be done, she decided, to prevent a Donald Trump-backed “election denier” from becoming the battleground state’s election chief.

“I am convinced that our democracy is in danger and that the people wielding the big lie, as we call it, and clinging to the former president are dangerous to democracy,” said Ms Murray, who works at the University of Georgia. “I don’t know if I’ll do it again because of what I felt afterwards. I just felt bad.

Mr Raffensperger, a conservative who refused to back the former president’s outright calls to void the 2020 election, likely wouldn’t have won the May 24 Republican primary without the likes of Ms Murray.

An Associated Press analysis of early voting records from data firm L2 found that more than 37,000 people who voted in Georgia’s Democratic primary two years ago voted in last week’s Republican primary. , an unusually large number of so-called cross-voters. Even allowing for the limited sample of early votes, the data reveals that cross-voters were instrumental in defeating Mr. Trump’s hand-picked candidates for Secretary of State and, to a lesser measure, of governor.

Gov. Brian Kemp ultimately didn’t need the Democrats in his landslide victory over his Trump-backed opponent, but Mr. Raffensperger likely did. The Republican secretary of state crossed the 50% threshold required to avoid a runoff by just over 27,000 votes, according to the latest AP tallies. Based on early voting data alone, 37,144 former Democrats voted in the Republican primary. The total crossover count, including Election Day votes, which is expected to be revealed in the coming weeks, could be even higher.

Cross-voting, also known as strategic voting, is not exclusive to Georgia this primary season as voters from all political backgrounds work to prevent Trump-backed extremists from taking control of governments. states and the federal government. The phenomenon plays out in multiple primary competitions, sometimes organically and sometimes in response to a coordinated effort by Mr. Trump’s opponents.

While Mr. Trump has spoken out against the practice over the weekend, there is nothing inherently wrong with cross-voting. Dozens of states make it legal and easy for voters to participate in either party’s primaries. And there have been several isolated incidents where the two sides have engaged in strategic voting over the years.

Yet Mr Trump warned conservatives against cross-voting during his campaign on Saturday in Wyoming, another state where the former president’s opponents are calling on Democrats to intervene – this time to help save Rep. Liz. Cheney of a Trump-backed primary challenger. Ms. Cheney, like Mr. Raffensperger and Mr. Kemp, refused to accept Mr. Trump’s lies about the 2020 election. She also voted for his second impeachment after the January 6 uprising.

“Don’t let the Democrats do what they did in another state last week,” Trump told supporters in Wyoming, complaining about what happens “when you allow Democrats to vote in a Republican primary.

Although the practice is getting Mr. Trump’s attention, it is often ineffective.

Mr Trump’s opponents have encouraged Democrats to help defeat US Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene in her Georgia primary last week. The MP, who embraced election lies and spoke at an event hosted by a white nationalist, won by more than 50 percentage points.

And in some cases, Democrats have been too focused on their own competitive primaries to vote for Republicans. That was likely the case in Pennsylvania, where some Democrats openly encouraged their base to vote for Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, whose extreme views made him more beatable in November.

However, to vote in the May 17 GOP primary, voters had to register as Republicans before the contest because Pennsylvania has a “closed primary” system. And on the same day, Democrats were deciding their own high-stakes Senate primary.

If early voting in Pennsylvania is any indication, few Democrats answered the call to vote GOP.

Among Republican primary voters who voted early or by mail this year, only 1.7% voted Democratic in the 2020 primary. ballot, would likely not have moved the needle in a result in which Mr Mastriano beat his nearest rival by nearly 320,000.

At the forefront of the crossover movement, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., has called for an “uneasy alliance” between Democrats, Independents and Republicans to weed out pro-Trump candidates in the GOP primaries every time as possible. Some states have open primaries like Georgia that allow people to vote in either primary, while other states have more restrictive rules.

In an interview, Kinzinger said he was pleasantly surprised by the response from Democrats in some races. He said he didn’t expect the move to be a “shattering game-changer” right away.

Mr. Kinzinger’s political organization, Country First, has targeted thousands of former Georgia Democrats with letters and text messages urging them to support Mr. Raffensperger for the sake of democracy.

A text message from Country First widely distributed to Georgian voters in the days leading up to the election read: “Don’t wait for the general election to go after the extremes. Vote in the Republican primary for the candidate who supports truth and democracy.

Mr. Kinzinger’s team was also active in North Carolina’s closely watched congressional race in North Carolina’s 11th District, where voters ousted polarizing pro-Trump freshman Rep. Madison Cawthorn during of the Republican primary.

As was the case in Georgia, the AP found that a significant percentage of Republican early votes were cast by voters who participated in the Democratic primary two years ago. Specifically, more than 14% of the 38,000 early or absentee votes cast in Mr Cawthorn’s race – more than 5,400 voters – were from a 2020 Democratic primary voter.

Mr Cawthorn lost his primary by less than 1,500 votes.

Back in Georgia, Mr. Raffensperger’s team pushed back against the idea that he won the GOP primary because of the Democrats. The team suggested that a number of cross-voters were actually Republicans who voted Democrat in recent years to protest Mr Trump.

“Clearly Brad Raffensperger won the majority of the Republican vote here in Georgia, and there are people who stopped voting in the Republican primaries after 2016 and are now re-enlisted,” Jordan said. Fuchs, consultant for the Raffensperger campaign. .

An AP review of pre-Trump-era voting records shows that at least some of Georgia’s 37,000 party switchers in 2022 were in the Republican camp before Mr. Trump took office. About between 9,000 and 13,000 voted Republican in the 2010, 2012 and 2014 primaries, according to L2 data.

Mr. Trump’s allies in the state, caught off guard by the crossover trend, were furious.

“It was a Democratic version of ‘Operation Chaos,'” said Debbie Dooley, president of the Atlanta Tea Party, referring to the covert Nixon-era push to infiltrate liberal groups. “I didn’t realize how far the Democrats were going to take the leap.”

Ms. Dooley launched a petition late last week to close Georgia’s Republican primaries to non-Republicans. More than a dozen states have closed, or partially closed, primaries that bar members of opposing parties from participating.

Meanwhile, Mr. Kinzinger said he was already drawing up plans to run a similar playbook in upcoming primaries in Michigan, Wyoming and Alaska. In addition to helping Senator Lisa Murkowski, the Alaskan Republican who voted to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial, Kinzinger said he is considering whether to invest resources to try to block former Governor Sarah Palin’s candidacy for Congress.

“Donald Trump came in and took over the Republican Party with nationalism,” Mr. Kinzinger said. “The American people have every right to determine who represents them in a congressional district, and if it’s in a primary, it’s in a primary. If they want to blame the Republican Party for the liar, they can do it, and I will certainly help them.

This story was reported by the Associated Press. Steve Peoples reported from New York. AP writers Jeff Amy in Atlanta and Jill Colvin in New York contributed to this report.

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