Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams Says Republican Brian Kemp Will Be Next Governor

(Bloomberg) -- Democrat Stacey Abrams, who was vying to become the first black woman governor in U.S. history, said Republican Brian Kemp would be Georgia’s next chief executive but vowed to file a federal lawsuit accusing the state of mismanaging the election and disenfranchising voters.

Abrams acknowledged that Kemp, the secretary of state until he stepped down two days after the election, will be certified as the winner. Then she told supporters at her campaign headquarters: “Let’s be clear. This is not a speech of concession because concession means acknowledging that the actions that were taken were right or true or proper.”

Kemp thanked Abrams in an emailed statement. “I appreciate her passion, hard work and commitment to public service,” he said. “The election is over and hardworking Georgians are ready to move forward.”

Endorsed by President Donald Trump, Kemp channeled his anti-immigration fervor in appealing to rural Georgians. One of Kemp’s television ads featured a pickup truck that he said was for rounding up “illegals.”

Abrams spoke just as the state’s deadline expired for counties to tally their absentee ballots -- and after nearly two weeks of legal wrangling that followed Kemp, 55, winning more than 50 percent of the vote on Election Night to about 48 percent for Abrams. In the days that followed, his margin of victory tightened by several thousand votes, but Abrams needed to net more than 17,000 additional votes to force a runoff in December.

In her speech to supporters, Abrams accused Kemp of acting to undermine democracy in the state over the past eight years and said she is forming a new organization to file what she called a “major federal suit” to address what happened in the midterm election.

Their race became a national proxy for partisan divides, especially on the issue of ballot access. Abrams, 44, built her campaign around increased turnout by infrequent voters. She accused Kemp of using his position as secretary of state to restrict voting by minority groups, including culling registration lists of those who hadn’t recently cast ballots and rejecting registrations that didn’t exactly match other public records.

Federal courts had ordered the state to delay certifying Georgia’s vote until today and required counties to count absentee ballots rejected because of missing or incorrect birthdates.

Kemp resigned his secretary of state position on Nov. 8 after declaring himself the winner of the governor’s race.

Their battle highlighted concerns about voting access that had been bubbling in Georgia politics for years, said Shirley Franklin, an Abrams supporter and former mayor of Atlanta.

“No matter how much the NAACP and other groups had complained about the number of people taken off the rolls, it just didn’t make sense to people until this election,” Franklin said.

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