- In a new book, Republican Geoff Duncan says he was targeted after refuting Trump's election claims.
- After Duncan referred to Biden as the president-elect, he was inundated with hateful messages.
- The lieutenant governor will not run again in 2022 and wants to see a GOP less defined by Trump.
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After the 2020 election, Republican Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan of Georgia was concerned that the party was continuing to entertain the election conspiracy theories perpetuated by then-President Donald Trump, to the point where it threatened the electoral fates of GOP Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.
Perdue and Loeffler had fallen short of the 50% threshold in their races in the November election, forcing them to compete with Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, respectively, in dual runoff elections to represent the fast-growing Deep South swing state in the Senate.
The outcome of the races would determine control of the upper chamber.
Duncan, who sought to focus on conservative policy successes and less on unsubstantiated conspiracy theories, including Trump's belief that votes had "come out of ceilings and come out of leather bags," wrote about the scorn he received for rejecting GOP "groupthink" in his newly-released book, "GOP 2.0."
"The president and his surrogates continued fanning the flames, and they forced the two GOP senators into fringe and dishonest positions on election fraud," the lieutenant governor wrote. "I worried their rhetoric would lose the race for our party. I walked the line as best I could and just kept repeating: 'No fraud in November, trust the electoral system, vote in the run-off on January 5, and please, out-of-state politicians, stop making the GOP seem like an extreme faction. You'll only hurt our candidates in the run-off.'"
He added: "I felt at odds with this new prevailing dynamic. I felt like a stranger. Who was this party? Why did it seem to literally worship the president? What was it doing to the bedrock of our democratic republic? What would it do to me?"
When Duncan addressed Joe Biden as the president-elect on television, one of the few GOP officeholders that was willing to do so while Trump continued to challenge the election, his action was met with scorn from the president's supporters across the country.
"Each time I said 'No fraud' or 'President-elect Biden' on national television, the insults and hate poured in from across Georgia and from forty-nine other states too," he wrote. "Groupthink - or doublethink - was the goal, and Republican leaders achieved it."
He added: "Each time I read messages on the way home, I sure felt good I had two Georgia state troopers with me. People wanted to rip my head off. Friends disappeared or became rabid enemies overnight."
Despite the negative feedback from many conservatives, Duncan felt that he had made the right call.
"Every time I looked into that black camera lens and spoke my mind, I gained confidence in my voice and my path," he wrote. "Maybe it's just easier to say what needs saying when it's only you and a camera in a small dark studio room; you can feel like the outside world doesn't really exist."
Duncan, who in May announced that he would not run for reelection a second term in 2022 and would instead focus on the GOP 2.0 independent movement to broaden the Republican coalition, said that he has no regrets about his decision to defend the integrity of the election.
For months, fellow Georgia Republicans including Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger have found themselves on the receiving end of Trump's ire for certifying Biden's electoral win in the state.
When Biden carried Georgia last fall, it was the first time that a Democratic presidential nominee had won the state since 1992.
In January, Kemp and Loeffler lost their respective races, handing control of the Senate to the Democrats.