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In Georgia, a bitter standoff in the race for governor, though the Republican declares victory

Jenny Jarvie, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

ATLANTA -- Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate in Georgia's bitterly disputed governor's race, refused to concede defeat Wednesday, activating a legal team as her opponent, Republican Brian Kemp, declared victory.

On Wednesday evening -- with nearly all 3.9 million votes counted and Abrams trailing Kemp by fewer than 63,000 votes -- the Abrams campaign said that it was 25,700 votes shy of triggering a runoff and 23,800 votes from a recount and that she would not concede until it was clear every last vote was tallied.

"Make no mistake: This race is not over," Abrams said on Twitter. "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."

But the prospect of a runoff -- which would take place Dec. 4 if no candidate in the three-person race secured 50 percent of the vote -- appeared to be growing slimmer.

The office of the secretary of state -- who happens to be Kemp -- issued a statement saying that fewer than 3,000 nonprovisional votes remained across the state and county officials reported fewer than 22,000 provisional ballots cast.

With 50.3 percent of the vote -- compared with 48.7 percent for Abrams and less than 1 percent for Libertarian candidate Ted Metz -- the Kemp campaign declared victory.

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"Brian Kemp earned nearly 2 million votes on Tuesday -- by far the most of any gubernatorial candidate in our state's history," Cody Hall, Kemp's press secretary, said in a statement late Wednesday afternoon. "Simply put, it is mathematically impossible for Stacey Abrams to win or force a run-off election."

Abrams, Georgia's former state House minority leader who hopes to make history as the nation's first black female governor, has consistently accused Kemp of voter suppression and questioned why he continues to supervise his own election.

"Our opponent has had his secretary of state's office declare himself the victor, and we are here tonight to say that we do not accept that," Abrams' campaign manager, Lauren Groh-Wargo, said in a conference call with reporters.

The campaign's legal team, which includes lawyers who worked on the Bush vs. Gore presidential election case in Florida in 2000, will review Georgia election law and compile information about voting irregularities in polling stations with long lines and broken machines.

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