ATLANTA, GA — Republican Brian Kemp’s campaign adviser declared Wednesday afternoon that the secretary of state had won the hard-fought governor’s race, amid a two-day vote count and Democrat Stacy Abrams has yet to concede the election. Votes from the last precincts were finally tallied in the Georgia election by mid-afternoon, giving Kemp a lead of about 65,000 votes over Abrams the race that was marred by voter complaints, long lines at some polls and technical problems.
“I think the message is clear. This election is over. The votes have been counted. Brian Kemp is Governor-Elect,” tweeted Austin Chambers with the Kemp campaign shortly before 5 p.m. Wednesday. He added that because Kemp has garnered 50.35 percent of the votes, no runoff election will be needed on Dec. 4, WSB reports.
Abrams has vowed not to concede until every ballot has been tabulated. She is pinning her hopes for a victory on the thousands of absentee ballots to be counted and a canvas of provisional ballots. The governor’s race has turned out to be every bit as tight as polls predicted in the campaign’s final weeks.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Kemp held a 50.35 percent lead over Abrams’ 48.71 percent, with Libertarian Ted Metz at 1 percent. Kemp has 1,972,278 votes, Abrams has 1,907,965 votes, according to unofficial election returns.
Georgia law requires a candidate to win 50 percent plus one to claim victory. Once all the votes are counted and certified, if neither Kemp or Abrams finishes with that margin, a runoff will be held Dec. 4. Georgia law also allows a candidate who loses an election by less than one percent to request a recount, which can only be requested after the state has officially certified an election’s results. The results are scheduled to be certified next week.
Normally, the deadline for counties to certify results is the Monday after the election, but they will now have until Tuesday, Nov. 13, because of the Veterans Day federal holiday that will be observed Monday, The Washington Post reports.
Midday Wednesday Abrams tweeted, “Make no mistake: This race is not over. As we have done since day one, my team will continue to work around the clock to make sure that every ballot is counted—because voting is the bedrock and lifeblood of our democracy.”
Kemp has not yet commented and neither side has claimed victory.
Abrams spoke to her supporters around 1:40 a.m. Wednesday, saying her campaign hopes thousands of absentee ballots will turn the election’s final outcome in her favor.
“Democracy only works when we fight for it,” Abrams said. “I’m here tonight to tell you there are votes to be counted. Georgia, you put your faith in me, but I want you to know that the feeling is mutual. Friends, we are still on the verge of history, and the best is yet to come,” she said.
Kemp spoke to his supporters later in the morning, saying the groundwork has been laid for a victory and the math “looks very good.”
In other statewide races, Republicans seemed to be headed to victory across the board. With 95 percent of the vote counted, Geoff Duncan was leading Sarah Riggs Amico to become the state’s first new lieutenant governor in more than a decade, but neither Republican Brad Raffensperger or Democrat John were over the margin of victory in the secretary of state’s race, meaning there will likely be a runoff next month. Liberataria Smythe Duval pulled 2 percent of the vote in that race.
Besides the governor’s race, two major congressional battleground races were also too close to call in to the morning hours. As of 8:15 a.m. Wednesday, it appears that Republican Rod Woodall has narrowly won reelection in Georgia’s 7th district by a 51 to 49 percent margin over Carolyn Bouredeaux, while Karen Handel is losing her reelection bid to Democrat Lucy McBath, with 67 percent of the vote in Georgia’s 6th congressional district.
Shortly after 7 pm, two Georgia congressmen — John Lewis of 5th district and Austin Scott of the 8th — were declared winners in their uncontested races. While the 11th Congressional District race has not been called, incumbent U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk of Bartow County thanked his supporters on his Facebook page.
“As the polls close, I just want to say THANK YOU for your vote and your support,” the Republican said Tuesday. “Serving Georgia’s 11th Congressional District is truly an honor, and I look forward to continuing to serve you.” The 11th Congressional District includes Cherokee and Bartow counties and parts of Cobb and North Fulton counties. In Georgia’s 14th Congressional District, incumbent Rep. Tom Graves is expected to keep that seat in the Republican column for the U.S. House of Representatives.
U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson easily won reelection in his heavily Democratic 4th district over Republican Joe Profit.
Thousands of Georgia voters on Tuesday were met with long lines, technical problems and confusion. Gwinnett County’s Annistown Elementary School precinct near Snellville finally closed at 9:25 p.m. because of problems earlier in the morning with its electronic express polling system, while two other Gwinnett County locations remained open until around 7:30 p.m.
In Fulton County, Pittman Park Recreation Center will remain open until 9 p.m. and Morehouse College’s Forbes Arena and Washington High School will now close at 10 p.m. Fulton County Elections Director Richard Barron said three machines were delivered Tuesday morning to the Recreation Center when the facility should have had eight on site. They were able to get the remaining five delivered to the southwest Atlanta polling location around 11 a.m.
As of about 5:42 p.m., more than 123,000 people ventured to Fulton County’s 183 polling locations to cast ballots in the Nov. 6 races. Fulton County had 1,828 poll workers stationed at places, and Barron added there were 154 poll observers who were on hand Tuesday. Turnout for Tuesday, Barron said, remained consistently strong across the board, and some places even experienced heavy foot traffic.
“We wished we could have more machines out in the field,” he said. Readers should note that Fulton County has about 700 voting machines that were sequestered following a 2017 court ruling stemming from a lawsuit related to the 6th Congressional District race, the elections director said. Barron said county attorneys tried to get the order lifted, but were unsuccessful.
Thousands of voters experienced voting problems throughout metro Atlanta, including Kemp himself, according to the AP. Early Tuesday morning voters reported problems with voting at Zoar United Methodist Church in Snellville. One person reported going to vote and was told he had already cast a vote. He said the poll worker checked three times, and asked if he voted in last three weeks. When he said he had not voted already, the poll workers filed a pink slip and deleted the prior cast ballot, issued a new regular ballot and the voter voted.
Fulton County elections officials said too few machines were sent to one precinct, but more machines were soon on the way. In a mid-morning press conference, Fulton Elections Director Rick Barron said he expects close to 200,000 people to vote Tuesday. Four machines at another precinct were down because of a faulty power cord, but they were soon up and running after the malfunction. Gwinnett County also experienced problems with its electronic express polls.
In DeKalb County, some voters who chose to cast a ballot in person instead of submitting an absentee ballot ran into problems. Those voters, according to a DeKalb spokesperson, had requested an absentee ballot but did not send it in. DeKalb County told Patch no one was unable to vote in the county, despite the issue.
Lisa C., a Sandy Springs resident who voted Tuesday at the Hammond Park Gymnasium, said she decided to cast her ballot because she knew “this was an important election.” She told Patch that she wanted to exercise her right to vote. “I just wanted to vote for candidates who are in line with my values,” she added. Lisa, who said she’s voted in every election since she turned 18, added the line was “pretty bad” when she arrived at the polling place at 10:50 a.m. While she had to wait between 30 and 45 minutes to vote, she noted things proceeded smoothly.
Another Sandy Springs resident said he and his wife cast their ballots because “we do not want Brian Kemp to be governor.” He also said he was opposed to the constitutional amendment on the ballot referred to as Marsy’s Law.
Some voters in Cobb County were particularly perturbed at an alleged lack of voting machines. One voter took to Twitter to complain, “This polling place literally has 5 machines and I will be here for no less than 2 hrs…Cobb County should be shamed.”
Another posted this item:
On Monday, the U.S. Justice Department’s said Fulton and Gwinnett counties were among 35 communities in 19 states that will be monitored by the department’s civil rights division for compliance with federal voting laws
Every poll conducted within the campaign’s final two weeks showed the race to be a virtual tie, with neither Kemp or Abrams polling high enough to win an outright victory (Libertarian Ted Metz is also in the race), with about 5 percent of voters undecided. If neither candidate earns a 50-percent-plus-one margin of victory Tuesday night, there will be a Dec. 4 runoff.
Both Abrams and Kemp brought out some of the nation’s biggest celebrities and political powerhouses in the race’s final hours. Actor Will Ferrell, Oprah Winfrey and former President Barack Obama all stumped for Abrams in her campaign’s final days, while Vice President Mike Pence and the biggest political official in the nation — President Donald Trump — both held rallies for Kemp.
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Along with Abrams’ historic candidacy — she is the first African-American female governor to win a major party’s nomination for governor — Georgia’s governor’s race is also widely seen as a political bellwether. Democrats are desperate for a high-profile victory, particularly in a Deep South state that has been dominated by Republicans for virtually all of the 21st century. Democrats also hope for a “blue wave” Tuesday night that will put them in a stronger position to oppose President Trump’s policies and administration.
The campaign was marked by accusations of voter suppression and election hacking. Early in the campaign, Abrams and her supporters, including former President Jimmy Carter, called on Kemp to resign as secretary of state because of voter suppression allegations. Kemp’s office and other state officials were also sued by several groups for rejecting ballots under Georgia’s “exact match” law.
Kemp himself made some ill-advised comments about voter turnout at a Buckhead campaign event, telling his supporters that Abrams’ absentee ballot turnout operation “continues to concern us, especially if everybody uses and exercises their right to vote — which they absolutely can — and mail those ballots in.”
Finally, on Saturday afternoon, Kemp’s Secretary of State office formally launched an investigation into an alleged attempt by the state Democratic Party to hack Georgia’s voter registration system. It also said it notified the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI about the alleged attempt.
Abrams is a former state legislator from Atlanta. A graduate of Avondale High School, Spelman College, the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, and Yale Law School, she became House Minority Leader in 2010, the first woman to lead either party in the Georgia General Assembly and the first African American to lead in the House. Under the pen name “Selena Montgomery,” Abrams is also the author of eight romantic suspense novels.
Kemp served as a state senator from 2007-07. In 2006 he ran unsuccessfully for agriculture commissioner, and in 2010 was appointed secretary of state by then Gov. Sonny Perdue. He later won election in 2010 and then reelection to the position in 2014.
Other Statewide and Congressional Races
Other high-profile races that will be decided on Tuesday are for lieutenant governor, secretary of state, and attorney general, as well as three Congressional races that are widely seen as possible battleground races for control of the U.S. House, in Georgia’s 6th, 7th and 11th districts.
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ATLANTA, GA – NOVEMBER 06: Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams addresses supporters at an election watch party on November 6, 2018 in Atlanta. (Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)
ATHENS, GA – NOVEMBER 06: Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp attends the Election Night event at the Classic Center on November 6, 2018 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)