WASHINGTON — Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue of Georgia demanded the resignation on Monday of their state's elected Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger.
In a rare joint statement, Perdue and Loeffler cited "mismanagement and lack of transparency" as the reasons for their demand but did not offer specific examples.
"We believe when there are failures, they need to be called out — even when it's in your own party," read the statement in part. "There have been too many failures in Georgia elections this year and the most recent election has shined a national light on the problems. ... The mismanagement and lack of transparency from the Secretary of State is unacceptable."
Their demand is extraordinary but not wholly surprising.
It's extraordinary because both Perdue and Loeffler are facing likely runoff elections for their Senate seats in January against Democrats. So the political calculus behind attacking a fellow Republican who is also the state's top election official is difficult to understand.
Raffensperger is popular among Republicans in the state, and in 2018 President Donald Trump endorsed his campaign, tweeting that Raffensperger "will be a fantastic secretary of state for Georgia."
But that was before last week, when Trump watched his early lead over President-elect Joe Biden in Georgia gradually evaporate as more and more votes were counted.
As of Monday afternoon, Biden led Trump by around 11,500 votes in the traditionally red state, and Georgia Republicans were looking for someone to blame.
In a blistering response Monday, Raffensperger said his resignation "is not going to happen." He called the senators' complaint that vote counting was not transparent "laughable" and strongly implied that the motive behind their demand for his resignation is that Trump is on track to lose the state.
"Was there illegal voting? I am sure there was, and my office is investigating all of it," he said. "Does it rise to the numbers or margin necessary to change the outcome to where President Trump is given Georgia's electoral votes? That is unlikely."
Last week, Trump lost his first and only legal effort so far in Georgia to challenge the election when a judge there tossed his campaign's lawsuit alleging that in Chatham County, a poll worker had seen late-arriving votes being commingled with on-time votes.
Nonetheless, Trump still appears fixated on winning Georgia, tweeting Monday afternoon that Georgia "will be a big presidential win, as it was the night of the Election!"
As Trump began to ramp up his attacks on the Georgia voting process last week, Raffensperger defended the integrity of the state's election, implicitly denying the accusations coming from the de facto leader of his own party.
"The stakes are high, and emotions are high on all sides," Raffensperger said at a press conference on Friday. "We will not let that debate distract us from our work. We will get it right."
NBC News and other major news outlets have yet to call the state for Biden. But with more than 99% of the vote counted and fewer than 40,000 ballots outstanding, few political observers believe the remaining ballots will so heavily favor Trump that he can make up the margins needed to pull ahead of Biden.
Still, with such a slim margin separating Trump and Biden in Georgia, the state is likely to conduct a formal recount of the presidential votes before certifying the final tally.
"With a margin that small, there will be a recount in Georgia," Raffensperger said Friday. "Interest in our election obviously goes far beyond Georgia's borders."