Whitfield, Murray Republicans censure Georgia's top GOP elected officials, Whitfield also censures Chuck Payne

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said he isn't going to resign, despite calls for him to do so by the Whitfield County and Murray County Republican parties.

"I am not going anywhere," he said in a statement Thursday. "Georgia elections are fair and accurate, and the new elections bill strengthens that — despite the misinformation from those on the left. I will continue to defend Georgia against those spreading misinformation for their own political purposes."

During the weekend, at their annual conventions, the Whitfield and Murray GOP passed resolutions calling on Raffensperger to resign. He is one of three top elected Republican officials in the state targeted by the two conventions for what their participants see as insufficiently supporting former President Donald Trump in his claim that his loss in the state in the 2020 presidential election was tainted by fraud. Gov. Brian Kemp and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan were censured at the two conventions.

There has been no evidence of widespread election fraud.

"They didn't take a stand to defend President Trump like we think they should have," said Whitfield County Republican Party Chairman Dianne Putnam.

The Whitfield County GOP also censured state Sen. Chuck Payne, R-Dalton, for, among other things, endorsing and repeating Duncan's "denials of election fraud and claims the elections were fairly conducted."

"Raffensperger and his subordinates frequently gave media interviews that criticized and undermined the efforts of President Trump and the Georgia Republican Party fighting election fraud," the Whitfield County resolution calling for Raffensperger to resign reads.

That resolution also criticized Raffensperger because it said Jordan Fuchs, deputy secretary of state, made "misleading statements" about a phone call between Trump and an election fraud investigator in the Secretary of State's office. The Washington Post acknowledged that based on a second-hand summary of a phone call by Fuchs, it published a story claiming Trump told the investigator to “find the fraud" and promising she would become a “national hero."

After a recording of that call was made public, the Post issued a retraction of that story, writing that Trump actually urged the investigator to scrutinize ballots in Fulton County, claiming she would find "dishonesty" there. He also told her that she had "the most important job in the country right now."

The resolution also criticizes Raffensperger for entering into a settlement agreement with the Georgia Democratic Party to settle a lawsuit over how signatures on mail-in ballots would be compared to the signatures on file at elections offices. Election officials agreed to contact voters within 24 hours if their absentee ballot was questioned to give them time to correct any problems. House Bill 316 determines how those absentee ballot problems can be corrected.

"He didn't have the authority to do that," said Murray County Republican Party Chairman Tony Abernathy. "Anything like should be approved by the (legislature)."

Kemp was censured because he "undermined the confidence of voters in the election process by refusing to call a special election of the Georgia Legislature to investigate election fraud" in the presidential election. The resolution said "Kemp's inaction angered Republican voters, many of who refused to vote in the Jan. 5 runoff and Kemp helped cost the Republicans two (U.S.) Senate seats."

Incumbent Republican U.S. senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue lost to, respectively, Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff on Jan. 5.

"He (Kemp) didn't call (the legislature) back into session and let them deal with this," said Abernathy. "If he'd called them back into session and let them investigate and they'd said 'Everything's fine,' there wouldn't be a problem. What he did sowed disdain and distrust."

Payne said calling the legislature back into session would have served no purpose.

"We are not an investigative body," he said. "We do not have the power to compel people to testify under oath. That's why the (state Senate) Republican caucus decided against asking for a special session."

Kemp's office did not immediately respond to telephone and email requests for an interview or statement.

The resolution censuring Duncan cites his refusal to oversee the state Senate during a debate on election reform as well as the fact that "Duncan denied there was election fraud and frequently appeared on leftist media outlets, including television interviews, and strongly attacked President Trump and Georgia Republicans that believed there was election fraud."

Duncan, who has announced he will not seek reelection in 2022, did not respond to phone calls and emails seeking an interview or statement.

The resolution censuring Payne also cites his 2018 opposition to a bill that would have required a separate, distinctive driver's license for illegal immigrants who have been granted a work permit by the federal government. Payne said it would cost a lot of money to implement and would not have denied a driver's license to anyone.

The resolution also cites the fact that in 2019 at the GOP's 14th Congressional District Convention Payne nominated Darrell Galloway from Paulding County to oppose incumbent chairman Ed Painter, who is "from Whitfield County, Payne's home county, a public betrayal of the Whitfield County Republican Party." Galloway defeated Painter and is the 14th District chairman.

"Ed was doing nothing wrong as chairman," Putnam said. "He was uniting the party and educating people."

Painter said "it is unheard of in the Republican Party for someone in his position to try to oust someone in his (state Senate) district in favor of someone who isn't in his district," Painter said.

Payne said when it comes to the 14th Congressional District, he believes it is right to do what is best for that district, not his Senate district, and he said he thought Galloway was the best man for the job.

"When the 14th District was formed (in 2012) Darrell Galloway was the first chairman and I served under him as the first vice chairman, and I got to know him and respect him," Payne said. "When he told me he was running and asked me for my support, I was happy to give it to him."

Payne said he was surprised he and the others were censured.

"You are supposed to censure people if they break the law or break the rules, not because they do something you disagree with," he said.

The Whitfield County Republican Party also passed resolutions:

• Urging the legislature to keep Whitfield County in Republican U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's district when it redraws House districts after the results of the 2020 census are announced.

Urging the legislature to rescind the tax credit on jet fuel provided to Delta Air Lines.

• Urging Georgians to boycott Major League Baseball and other "woke" companies.

Both Delta and Major League Baseball criticized a voting overhaul bill enacted into law in the state earlier this year, saying parts of it will restrict voting. Major League Baseball moved the All-Star Game to Denver from Atlanta in response.

• Opposing holding elections for tax allocation districts and Special Purpose Local Option Sales Taxes (SPLOSTs) during special elections and asking the Whitfield County Board of Commissioners to cut property taxes.

• Supporting "constitutional carry," the right to carry a firearm "open or concealed" without a permit.

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