Georgia’s Democratic candidate for governor vows to fight
Rival quits as secretary of state, maintaining he’s won the election
ATLANTA — Republican Brian Kemp resigned Thursday as Georgia secretary of state, a day after his campaign said he had captured enough votes to become governor. His Democratic rival, Stacey Abrams, refused to concede, and her campaign demanded that state officials “count every single vote.”
As the state’s top election official, Kemp oversaw the race, a marquee contest in the nation’s midterms. His resignation Thursday morning came as a hearing began for a lawsuit in which five voters asked that he be barred from exercising his duties in any future management of his own election tally.
Abrams’ campaign had repeatedly accused Kemp of improperly using his post as secretary of state and had been calling for him to step down for months, saying his continuation in the job was a conflict of interest. Kemp made clear that he wasn’t stepping down in response to that criticism, but to start on his transition to the governor’s office.
His resignation took effect just before noon Thursday. He said an interim secretary of state had been appointed to oversee the rest of the vote count. The Associated Press has not called the election.
Shortly after Kemp’s announcement, Abrams’ campaign and its legal team held a news conference to announce that they would not give up the fight to have all ballots counted. They insisted enough votes remained uncounted to affect the outcome of the election.
“This is all public information, ladies and gentlemen, public information,” said campaign manager Lauren Groh-Wargo. “We demand that Secretary of State Kemp, his campaign ... they need to release all the data, all the numbers, and they need to count every single vote.”
The lawyers said they planned to file a lawsuit against officials in Dougherty County, where they said absentee ballots were delayed because of Hurricane Michael, which devastated parts of south Georgia.
They also said they asked the court to ensure those votes are counted, and to require that elections officials preserve all potential evidence about the vote count.
Previously, Abrams had pointed to ballots that had yet to be counted in metro Atlanta counties where she won a large share of the vote. Her campaign has said she must pick up about 15,000 votes to secure a runoff in December.
Without providing specifics, Kemp said in a WSB radio interview that the number “is actually more like 30,000 votes.”
At a news conference with Gov. Nathan Deal, R-Ga., late Thursday morning, Kemp declared that there are only about 20,000 provisional ballots that have not yet been counted in the race. He did not offer any details, but in response to a question said he would ask about releasing countyby-county results.
Of Abrams, he said, “Even if she got 100 percent of those votes, we still win.”
In fact, Kemp’s office did release to the AP a county-level breakdown about the same time he started speaking in Deal’s office Thursday. The office had not immediately shared that requested information the day before, however, even as Kemp’s campaign cited the statewide estimate as his justification for declaring victory.
If a runoff is necessary, it will take place Dec. 4, extending Abrams’ bid to become the first black woman elected governor in American history, while Kemp looks to maintain the GOP’s domination in a state where Democrats haven’t won a governor’s race since 1998.
Florida faced the prospect of recounts in the razor-thin races for governor and U.S. Senate, potentially prolonging the battle over two of this year’s most-closely watched campaigns.
In the governor’s race, Democrat Andrew Gillum’s campaign said Thursday it’s prepared for a possible recount. He conceded to Republican Ron DeSantis on Tuesday night, though the margin of the race has since tightened. As of Thursday afternoon, DeSantis held a lead of 0.47 percentage point over Gillum.
Meanwhile, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., has already started preparing for a potential recount in a race that remains too close to call against Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican. Nelson’s lawyer called that race a “jump ball” — though Scott’s campaign urged Nelson to concede. Scott held a 0.21point lead over Nelson on Thursday afternoon.
Sarah Revell, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of State, said she didn’t know of any other recount in a governor or Senate race in Florida history. She was researching the subject Thursday.
Under Florida law, a recount is mandatory if the winning candidate’s margin is less than 0.5 of a point when the first unofficial count is verified Saturday by the secretary of state.
The Associated Press has called the governor’s race for DeSantis. If Saturday’s count shows DeSantis with a margin narrow enough to trigger a recount, AP will retract its call for DeSantis. It is AP policy not to call a race that is facing a recount.
The AP has not called a winner in the Senate race.
Florida voters decided to phase out greyhound racing by 2021, meaning thousands of dogs will soon need new homes.
The state voted 69 to 31 percent Tuesday to pass Amendment 13, which bans the sport beginning Jan. 1, 2021. It is an overwhelming defeat for an industry already in decline, with 50 tracks closing nationally over the past 30 years because of shrinking crowds and animal rights protests.
Florida’s 11 dog tracks constitute almost twothirds of those remaining nationally. When they close, the sport may be too small to survive long term. Two tracks remain in West Virginia and one each in Alabama, Arkansas and Iowa. In Texas, three tracks rotate an annual meet.