By Gregg Re
Published November 07, 2018
Georgia Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp claimed victory Wednesday in his gubernatorial contest with Democrat Stacey Abrams -- but Abrams, vying to become the nation's first black female governor, is so far refusing to concede. Fox News has not yet called the race.
According to Associated Press vote totals with all precincts reporting, Kemp has 1,972,952 votes to Abrams' 1,909,730 -- giving him 50.3 percent to her 48.7 percent. The state could have had its first-ever gubernatorial runoff if neither candidate had cleared the 50 percent mark.
"Brian Kemp earned nearly two million votes on Tuesday - by far the most of any gubernatorial candidate in our state's history," Kemp press secretary Cody Hall said in a statement.
Hall continued: "Absentee ballots are counted and Kemp leads his opponent by 64,000 votes. Based on counts released by the Secretary of State's office, Brian Kemp's margin is so large that the number of provisional ballots and overseas ballots will not change his Election Day victory. Simply put, it is mathematically impossible for Stacey Abrams to win or force a run-off election."
Kemp had previously faced criticism for refusing to announce preemptively that he would recuse himself from overseeing any recount that may have occurred in the race.
"Peach State voters made a clear decision at the ballot box."
"Peach State voters made a clear decision at the ballot box," Hall said. "Brian Kemp will now begin his transition as governor-elect of Georgia. He will work every day to keep our state moving in the right direction."
But early Wednesday, Abrams signaled she's ready for a fight.
"Democracy only works when we work for it, when we fight for it, when we demand it, and apparently today when we stand in line for hours to meet it at the ballot box," Abrams told supporters. "I am here today to tell you there are votes remaining to be counted. Voices are waiting to be heard."
Her campaign manager, Lauren Groh-Wargo, added: "We have three factors to be considered here: outstanding votes, absentee ballots to be counted, and provisional ballots. Given those three issues, we believe this is likely heading to a runoff."
The Georgia race was among the most closely watched gubernatorial contests nationally. Democrats seized several state governorships from Republicans on Tuesday night, but fell short in Iowa, Ohio, and Florida -- three states former President Obama won in 2012 but that President Trump carried in 2016.
Control of the nation's governor's mansions is expected to be particularly important in 2020, when states draw their new congressional district lines, which can be vetoed by the chief executives.
The Georgia contest was marked with drama and intrigue long before the final votes were cast. Kemp announced on Sunday his office was investigating "possible cyber crimes" by the Georgia Democratic Party, throwing a last-minute wrench into what was already a tight race. Abrams and the state Democratic party swiftly rejected the allegations, claiming there was "never a hack" and declaring it was a feeble attempt to "suppress the vote."
Abrams was hoping to make history Tuesday night, as well as break a decades-old red streak of gubernatorial victories in the Peach State. The state hasn't elected a Democratic governor since 1998. However, Abrams previously emphasized she didn't want people to support her based solely on those reasons.
“I don’t want anyone to vote for me because I’m black. And no one on the ballot needs a vote because we’re women. And I don’t even want you to vote for us just because we’re Democrats. You need to vote for us because we’re better," she told a crowd in Savannah Monday.
Both candidates are being backed by big-name celebrities and political heavyweights: Kemp boasted the support of Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker, President Trump and Vice President Pence, while Abrams claimed Oprah Winfrey and former President Barack Obama among her supporters.
"Make history here in Georgia. Make things better here in Georgia," Obama urged a crowd of voters last week while endorsing Abrams at Morehouse College in Atlanta.
Meanwhile, Trump stumped for Kemp, whom he described as an "incredible fighter and tireless champion for the people."
"Stacey Abrams is one of the most extreme, far-left politicians in the entire country... You put Stacey in there, and you're gonna have Georgia turn into Venezuela. I don't think the people of Georgia like that," Trump said at an event in Macon on Sunday.
Fox News' Jennifer Earl and The Associated Press contributed to this report.