InsiderAdvantage: Dem SoS Runoff Pits Former Legislators Against One Other

Baker Owens

Friday, June 3rd, 2022

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Two former Georgia state representatives will face off in the June primary to be the Democratic candidate for Secretary of State in the November election. Dee Dawkins-Haigler was a representative from the 91st district from 2008-2017. Bee Nguyen is technically still the representative from the 89th district but is vacating her seat to run for Secretary of State.

During her time in the state legislature, Dawkins-Haigler was elected chair of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus in 2013. She gave up her house seat to run for the state Senate but lost in a runoff by 10 – yes, 10 – in a race with about 9,500 votes. She previously ran for Secretary of State in 2018 but lost to popular Democrat and former U.S. House member John Barrow.

Bee Nguyen is the first Vietnamese-American to serve in the Georgia House of Representatives. She founded a non-profit called Athena Warehouse which worked to educate and empower girls in under-resourced communities. She was selected by BizJournals in 2018 on the 40 under 40 list. Nguyen ran away with the original primary vote, despite not reaching the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff. Nguyen got just over 44 percent out of the nearly 700,00 votes cast, with Dawkins-Haigler edging out former Cobb County Democratic Party Chair Michael Owens 18.6 percent to 16.4 percent.

Nguyen is endorsed by a very popular among Georgia Democrats, Stacey Abrams. Nguyen holds Abrams old seat in the state legislature and Abrams features prominently in her advertisements, popping up as the first thing you see going to her website. “Bee’s commitment to Georgia, her passion for protecting the freedom to vote, and her effectiveness as a public servant has impressed me. She is the best possible candidate to put the Secretary of State’s office in Democratic hands and on the side of voters,” said Abrams.

Nguyen has been endorsed by a slew of other powerful Democratic groups, such as Emily’s List, Georgia WIN List and NARAL.

Both campaigns emphasize the need to protect the right to vote, echoing Georgia and national Democrats concerns about the recent slate of Georgia voting rules passed by the Republican-dominated legislature. Nguyen points to her expertise in voting rights, noting that as Secretary of State she would invest in training and resources for all 159 election boards, prioritize voter education and outreach, including text message alert systems, and develop kiosks to securely submit vote-by-mail applications and scan ID to be placed across the state. She also notes her experience as an entrepreneur and the difficulties that can come with that. The Secretary of State’s office is responsible for much of the licensing and permitting for small business and Nguyen will focus on that. Dawkins-Haigler promises to secure the vote and increase voter participation, provide resources for small businesses and non-profits, as well as improve licensing and create a task force for minority business owners.

The “establishment” is on the side of Nguyen but, in a Georgia runoff, anything is possible.