Kemp quits sec­re­tary of state post as Abrams vows to fight on


Ledger-Enquirer - - Front page - BY BILL BAR­ROW AND KATE BRUM­BACK

Repub­li­can Brian Kemp re­signed Thurs­day as Ge­or­gia’s 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 Gro­hWargo. “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 Thurs­day 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.

“How can any­body claim a vic­tory when there are enough votes that have not been counted that could cause a runoff here?” at­tor­ney John Chan­dler asked. “We will lit­i­gate un­til we have de­ter­mined that ev­ery per­son’s vote has been counted.”

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.

Kemp said Abrams is us­ing “old math.” With­out pro­vid­ing specifics, he said in a WSB Ra­dio in­ter­view that the num­ber “is ac­tu­ally more like 30,000 votes.”

At a news con­fer­ence with Repub­li­can Gov. Nathan Deal 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 de- tails, but in re­sponse to a ques­tion said he would ask about re­leas­ing county-by­county 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 stand­off con­tin­ued to at­tract at­ten­tion around the coun­try, with the head of the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee ap­plaud­ing Abrams for press­ing on and blast­ing Kemp as un­trust­wor­thy.

“It is grossly un­fair to any fox in Amer­ica to com­pare Brian Kemp with a fox guard­ing the hen house. It is much worse in Ge­or­gia,” DNC Chair­man Tom Perez said in Wash­ing­ton. “I don’t think that race is over. Ev­ery vote must be counted, and the in­tegrity of that elec­tion is at stake.”

Late Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon — af­ter a day of the cam­paigns, news out­lets and par­ti­san ob­servers scram­bling for in­for­ma­tion about out­stand­ing votes across Ge­or­gia’s 159 coun­ties — Kemp aide Ryan Ma­honey told re­porters on a con­fer­ence call, “We are declar­ing vic­tory.” Cam­paign of­fi­cial Austin Cham­bers added: “The mes­sage here is pretty sim­ple: This elec­tion is over, and the re- sults are clear.”

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.

With re­ported votes ex­ceed­ing 3.9 mil­lion – al­most 95 per­cent of Ge­or­gia’s 2016 pres­i­den­tial turnout — Kemp has just more than 50 per­cent.

In 2016, with a slightly larger elec­torate, there were 16,739 pro­vi­sional bal­lots. Of those, 7,592 were counted. State and cam­paign of­fi­cials said they ex­pected a much higher pro­por­tion to be counted this year.

The law­suit at is­sue Thurs­day morn­ing in an At­lanta fed­eral court came from vot­ers who sued Kemp on Elec­tion Day al­leg­ing that his pre­sid­ing over an elec­tion in which he is a can­di­date “vi­o­lates a ba­sic no­tion of fair­ness.” The plain­tiffs asked the court to block Kemp from hav­ing any­thing more to do with man­ag­ing his elec­tion. The hear­ing ended shortly af­ter it be­gan with the an­nounce­ment of Kemp’s res­ig­na­tion.

It’s not im­me­di­ately clear what Kemp’s prac­ti­cal role was in the elec­tion tally. Lo­cal of­fi­cials are re­spon­si­ble for count­ing the votes, in­clud­ing pro­vi­sional bal­lots.

Stacey Abrams, Brian Kemp


Al­le­gra Lawrence-Hardy, Stacey Abrams’ cam­paign chair­man, ap­pears with at­tor­neys dur­ing a news con­fer­ence Thurs­day in At­lanta.


Brian Kemp, right, and Ge­or­gia Gov. Nathan Deal hold a news con­fer­ence in the Gover­nor's cer­e­mo­nial of­fice at the Capi­tol on Thurs­day in At­lanta.

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