The 2022 race for Georgia’s top election official is already taking shape, with its first major Democratic challenge coming from state Rep. Bee Nguyen ― an Asian American fighting for voting rights in the state legislature.
Nguyen announced Tuesday that she’s launched her campaign to become Georgia’s secretary of state ― a move that comes just over a month after the state’s Republican lawmakers passed an extremely restrictive voter suppression law.
“Republicans have done everything in their power to silence the voices of voters who chose an America that works for all of us and not just some of us,” she said in her video announcing the campaign. “But we will not allow anyone to stand in the way of our right to a free and fair democracy.”
Nguyen would be the first Asian American to hold a statewide political office in Georgia’s history. The lack of Asian American representation in elected office rises up to the federal government, with a new report saying Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders represented less than 1% of federal, state and local elected leaders last year despite making up about 6% of the U.S. population.
There is “no better way to kick off” Asian Pacific American Heritage Month “than to announce my historic candidacy,” tweeted the 39-year-old daughter of Vietnamese refugees who became only the second Asian American Democrat in the Georgia House when elected in 2016.
Nguyen currently holds the seat once held by voting rights champion Stacey Abrams, who left the state legislature to run, ultimately unsuccessfully, for governor against Brian Kemp, who was Georgia’s secretary of state at the time. The state representative has continued Abrams’s fight in the Georgia State Capitol, helping Democratic efforts to roll back an “exact match” voter registration that sparked controversy in the 2018 midterms.
After President Donald Trump’s campaign released a list of voters in Georgia it falsely claimed had voted illegally because they no longer lived in Georgia, the state representative personally tracked down 128 of them to verify their eligibility to vote. A 12-minute interaction captured on video that went viral showed Nguyen demonstrating how phone calls, basic online searches and visits to the homes of Georgians on Trump’s list proved they were indeed legitimate voters.
“I’ve been at the forefront of battling against voter suppression laws in Georgia,” Nguyen told The New York Times this week. “Watching everything unfold in 2020 with the erosion of our democracy, I recognized how critically important it was to defend our right to vote.”
Her potential victory would flip the seat held by Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who came under the spotlight for publicly refusing Trump’s demands to overturn Georgia’s election results from November. He debunked the former president’s claims that Georgia’s election was rife with voter fraud, and he denied Trump’s request to “find” enough votes to make him the winner of the state’s electoral votes.
Raffensperger has faced widespread backlash from the GOP due to his disobedience to the Trump regime, with many in the state’s party calling on him to resign. Trump himself has promised to use his influence to campaign against the secretary of state, endorsing state Rep. Jody Hice, a staunch Republican ally of the former president with a history of promoting his election lies, in the primary. Georgia Republicans also took aim at Raffensberger through a provision in the new voting law that severely weakens the secretary of state’s power on the State Election Board, something a successor would also face.
Nguyen told the Times that Raffensperger deserved credit for standing up to Trump and rejecting his voter fraud lies. But she highlighted that since the November election, the secretary of state has supported the new GOP-led Georgia law that imposes restrictions on voting rights that disproportionately affect people of color, such as requiring photo ID for mail-in ballots and limiting the availability of ballot drop boxes.
According to Nguyen, she would use her position to advocate for more vigorous poll worker training and demand the rollback of the racist new voting restrictions that she said are aimed at punishing Georgia Democrats for winning in November’s election and in January’s Senate runoffs. She also said her office would “prioritize accessibility, efficiency and equity” in voting, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The Georgia midterm elections next year would reflect the battleground state’s changing demographics and Democrats’ intensified push to preserve and expand the basic right to vote should Abrams run for office again and Nguyen get on the general election ballot. Georgia’s secretary of state election, usually a low-profile event, will be a down-ballot race closely watched by the rest of the country.
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