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Utah GOP reps raising money in Georgia Senate race to counter ‘cheating’ Democrats

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Rep. Chris Stewart speaks in Sandy on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.

Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, speaks at an election night event for Republican candidates in at the Utah Association of Realtors building in Sandy on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Accusing Democrats of cheating in the crucial U.S. Senate races in Georgia, Rep. Chris Stewart is leading an effort among Utah’s congressional delegation to raise money for the two Republican candidates.

In a video on Twitter, Stewart, R-Utah, says the country is under attack and the Georgia Senate races are the last line of defense. Democrats, he said, are “desperate” to win the two seats, and if they do, they will have “absolute” power.

“That’s why they’re cheating. They’re encouraging people to move to Georgia. They’re coaching them in how to register and how to vote. They’re pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into this race. We have to do the same thing,” he said.

The Stewart campaign intends to hold a virtual fundraiser in December with other GOP members of the state’s delegation for the Georgia Battleground Fund, a joint fundraising committee between the incumbent Georgia Republican senators and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

The two Senate seats in Georgia went to runoffs after the Nov. 3 election because no candidate won 50% of the vote to secure the seat. Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are now facing Democrats the Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, respectively, in a Jan. 5 election.

Control of the Senate is at stake. The GOP currently holds 50 seats to the Democrats’ 48. If Democrats win both Georgia seats, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would have the deciding vote in the event of a tie.

Georgia is among the states Democrat Joe Biden was able to flip in the 2020 election, though President Donald Trump called for a recount there among his challenges to election results in several states.

In the days after it was announced the Georgia Senate races would go to runoff elections, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman seemingly encouraged people to move to Georgia to vote for the Democrats.

“I hope everybody moves to Georgia, you know, in the next month or two, registers to vote, and votes for these two Democratic senators,” he said on CNN.

Former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang tweeted that he and his wife were moving to Georgia to help Warnock and Ossoff win. Yang also is encouraging people to donate to organizations that are working to get out the vote for the two candidates.

Those comments had people on social media talking about traveling to the state ahead of the election. Most wanted to know how they could volunteer, but a smaller number of people replying to Yang’s tweet floated the possibility of voting in the state, according to Vox.

But Neither Yang nor Friedman suggested temporarily moving to Georgia or establishing fake residency to vote in the runoff election.

Moving to Georgia just to cast a ballot in an election with no intention of remaining in the state is illegal.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger issued a warning to groups that might be helping people move to the state to vote in the election.

“Make no mistake about it, I will seek to prosecute those who try to undermine our elections to the fullest extent of the law,” he said in a recent statement. “Outside groups who seek to interfere with democracy in Georgia should be forewarned that the consequences will be severe.”

Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Merchant said he has been in touch with the Georgia Democratic Party, but there are no organized efforts in Utah to raise money for Warnock and Ossoff. There are Utahns who are going to Georgia to volunteer with the campaigns, he said.

“One thing the Democrats are good at is their ground game,” he said.

Merchant said he hasn’t followed the Georgia races closely but doubts Democrats are flocking there to vote.

“Obviously, Donald Trump did not play particularly well in Georgia, and to continue to peddle in conspiracy theories, it’s damaging our country. It really is,” he said.

Stewart said the Georgia Senate races are critical to the nation’s future. He said he would match dollar for dollar donations up to a total of $10,000 for the Republican candidates. His tweet included a link to the Georgia Battleground Fund.

“I need your help. In fact, America needs your help,” he said.

Utah Sen. Mike Lee, Rep. John Curtis, retiring Rep. Rob Bishop and newly elected Congressmen Burgess Owens and Blake Moore, along with Stewart, plan to hold a joint fundraiser via Zoom on Dec. 7, said Jordan Giles, Stewart campaign manager. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, is not confirmed, he said.

A Romney source said the senator was not invited to the Utah fundraiser. However, he has been leveraging his own fundraising network to benefit the Georgia Senate candidates, including holding a virtual fundraiser last week for the Georgia Battleground Fund expected to raise more than half a million dollars.

Giles described the event as a roundtable where the senator and congressmen would ask Utahns to donate to the fund. He said none of the money would stay in Utah but would go to the Georgia GOP candidates.

In a Facebook post earlier this week, Lee said Perdue and Loeffler need help from across the country, and asked people to contribute to their campaigns.

“Chuck Schumer and the radical Democrats will stop at nothing to gain control of the Senate majority. Mega-donor Democrats are pouring MILLIONS of dollars into Georgia and we need your help to stop them. Right now is the crucial time where both campaigns are ramping up their field operations, voter outreach, and mass marketing,” he wrote.