Gabriel Sterling, a top Georgia election official and lifelong Republican, is on the receiving end of ire and death threats after he criticized President Trump over his falsehood-filled campaign to overturn the results of an election he lost.
As many elected Republicans have joined Trump’s baseless attacks on the foundations of democracy, this statewide voting system implementation manager has emerged as one of the few who had the courage to bluntly and passionately speak truth to power. Now he is the target of Trump’s supporters’ ire.
The threats are graphic, the Los Angeles Times reports. “Someone texted him his home address and told him to sleep with his eyes open. Another urged him to commit suicide. He found his name on a website of the president’s perceived enemies, his face in gun crosshairs.”
On a recent evening, he heard his front door rattle and, not expecting company, leaped to attack an intruder. It turned out to be his startled fiancée. Now Police guard his home, according to the report.
“I never expected to be in this situation. I mean, my title is statewide voting system implementation manager, right?” Sterling said.
While other elections officials across the country are breathing a sigh of relief Monday as the electoral college is expected to cement President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, Sterling is girding for more: That same day he begins overseeing early voting in two contentious runoff races that could determine control of the U.S. Senate.
Republicans have never been great at confronting Trump, who maintains an iron grip on a huge chunk of the electorate. Sterling understands the conundrum. He isn’t fond of Trump’s demeanor or behavior, but has supported his policies and voted for him in 2016 and this year. Even now, after the lies and death threats, Sterling cannot say he wouldn’t vote for Trump if he was on the ballot again.
He says he will continue speaking the truth, just like he did at the Dec. 1 news conference at the Georgia Capitol when he sharply criticized rhetoric from the president and others that was leading to threats against election workers:
“You need to step up and say this, is stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence. Someone’s going to get hurt. Someone’s going to get shot. Someone’s going to get killed. And it’s not right. It’s not right,” he said.
“It’s time to look forward. If you want to run for reelection in four years, fine, do it. But everything we’re seeing right now, there’s not a path. Be the bigger man here and step in. Tell your supporters, ‘Don’t be violent. Don’t intimidate.’ All that’s wrong. It’s un-American,” he declared.
Be the bigger man. Sterling wouldn’t use the words to describe himself, but that’s the test he faces.
Election officials in other states said they admired Sterling for speaking so bluntly. “It was clear from that speech how exasperated he had become,” said Al Schmidt, a Republican election official in Philadelphia who was attacked by Trump and has spoken out against the conspiracy theories. “It was a very good thing he did.”
In his hometown of Sandy Springs, part of a swath of the affluent north Atlanta suburbs that has in recent years shifted dramatically from red to blue, Sterling has the support of a string of local Republican leaders. He has also earned praise from Democrats, though they wish he had raised the alarm or disavowed Trump when he attacked so many others during his presidency.
Sterling said such criticism is fair but believes it misses a key point:
“I was just the statewide voting system implementation manager. Who would care what I had to say?”
H/T: Los Angeles Times.