ATLANTA — The death threats finally appeared to be subsiding, Brad Raffensperger was happy to report.
“I haven’t gotten one in a while,” said Mr. Raffensperger, Georgia’s embattled secretary of state, expressing hope that political passions might be cooling off in the state — though “cooling off” is relative in the country’s most heated battleground.
Not since Florida’s presidential recount of 2000 has one state’s election cycle drawn so much national — even international — scrutiny. Polarizing figures, expensive campaigns and breathless plotlines have become a seemingly permanent feature of elections here. Analysts have identified Georgia as a major bellwether of the nation’s cultural, economic and demographic realignment, as well as a prime battlefield for showdowns over such fundamental civic matters as the right to vote.
When exactly did this reliably Republican and relatively sleepy political sphere become such a vital center of contention and intrigue?
roll back ballot access in what opponents say is clear targeting of Black voters with echoes of Jim Crow-era disenfranchisement.
In 2022, the Peach State’s race for governor is likely to include perhaps the Democratic Party’s leading champion of voting rights, Stacey Abrams, in a replay of the 2018 grudge match between her and Gov. Brian Kemp, the Republican incumbent. One of the two Democrats who won their races in January, Senator Raphael Warnock, will also have to turn around and defend his seat next year in a race that Republicans are already eyeing as they seek to reclaim the chamber. Several local and national Republicans — including Mr. Trump — have tried to recruit the former University of Georgia football legend Herschel Walker to run for the seat, which could lend another wrinkle to the state’s political story, as if it needed one.
Adding to the chaos, Mr. Kemp has become the target of a vendetta by Mr. Trump, who has condemned him for not doing more to deliver (or poach) victory for him in Georgia in November. This has also made Georgia the unquestioned center of the internal disputes that have roiled the Republican Party since November. Mr. Trump has seemed intent on making the state a key stop on a revenge tour he has waged against Republicans he has deemed insufficiently loyal to him — Mr. Kemp and Mr. Raffensperger chief among them.
disclosed by The Washington Post and led Georgia prosecutors to open a criminal investigation into the former president.)
“You’re not supposed to live and die by these elections,” Mr. Sterling said, noting that in a healthy democracy, the “normal” number of death threats directed at an official like him would be “zero.” He and Mr. Raffensperger were sitting in a tavern near the Georgia Capitol early this month, monitored by a security detail. They were unwinding after another day of pitched political battle in which the Republican-controlled legislature passed an election bill that would create a raft of new ballot restrictions.