Georgia’s gubernatorial race drew two former presidents, A-list celebrities and the eye of every political watcher in the nation. By Wednesday morning, it was not yet over.
Republican Brian Kemp, the sitting secretary of state who did his level best to suppress and discourage high voter turnout, had earned 50.5 percent of the vote with all precincts reporting. That tally would give him just barely enough votes to avoid a runoff election. But Democrat Stacey Abrams, who received nearly 49 percent of the vote, had not yet conceded. Her campaign said that enough ballots remained to be counted in the heavily Democratic Atlanta metro area to drag Kemp below the 50 percent threshold and trigger a runoff election on Dec. 4th. (Libertarian Ted Metz, who joked about withdrawing from the race days before the election, received 36,000 votes, or 1 percent of the vote — enough to have pushed either major-party candidate over the majority threshold.)
“We believe our chance for a stronger Georgia is just within reach, but we cannot seize it until all voices are heard,” Abrams told her supporters in an Atlanta hotel on election night. “I promise you tonight we’re going to make sure that every vote is counted.”
Abrams, 44, became a national figure not long after her overwhelming July primary victory over Stacey Evans, a former Georgia state representative. The Mississippi native and former minority leader of Georgia’s state legislature drew support from Democratic stars like former President Barack Obama and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), as well entertainment superstars such as Oprah Winfrey, Will Ferrell and Michael B. Jordan.
The historical significance of Abrams’ candidacy became a near-daily feature of the national conversation around the midterm elections. Likewise, as the suppression of non-white voters became one of the dominant topics of the 2018 midterms, the Georgia race became the fulcrum of that discussion. Abrams, a voting-rights activist, founded the New Georgia Project in 2014, aiming to get a “New American Majority” of young people, unmarried women and voters of color to register and cast ballots. Kemp faced numerous allegations of misusing his position as the state’s top elections official to improperly influence the election. Reports of dramatic voter purges and application suspensions plagued his campaign. Two weeks before the election, audio obtained by Rolling Stone revealed Kemp telling supporters at a ticketed event that the Abrams campaign’s voter turnout effort “continues to concern us, especially if everybody uses and exercises their right to vote.”
And in what many have deemed a “political stunt,” Kemp’s office launched an investigation into the Democratic Party of Georgia just two days before Election Day. His office alleged a “failed attempt to hack the state’s voter registration system” by a volunteer with the party. (This came about despite a federal lawsuit filed in August alleging that Kemp’s office — which denied federal assistance with election security during the 2016 election — had left more than 6 million voter records vulnerable to hackers.) In response to charges that the investigation was a stunt, Kemp told reporters on Monday that he was “not worried about how it looks.”
This story will be updated as more details emerge.