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Stacey Abrams: Republican Brian Kemp will be Georgia’s next governor

Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams

“I will pray for the success of Brian Kemp, that he will indeed be a leader for all Georgians…
that he will refuse the call of those who see how close this election really was.
Because we know that some will propose to make voting even more difficult.”
–Stacey Abrams

By Elaine Owen, Editor

After a bitter 10-day battle since Election Day, Democrat Stacey Abrams admitted Friday afternoon there is no path to victory. Republican Brian Kemp will be the next governor of Georgia.

Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams
Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams

“I acknowledge that former Secretary of State Brian Kemp will be certified as the victor in the 2018 gubernatorial election,” Abrams said. “But to watch an elected official who claims to represent the people in this state baldly pin his hopes for election on suppression of the people’s democratic right to vote has been truly appalling.”

The race had been too close to call since polls closed Tuesday last week. Kemp had clung to a slim lead, staying just above the over 50 percent he needed to avoid a runoff election.

However, at a press conference Friday evening (Nov. 16), Abrams argued that Kemp’s record as secretary of state, marred by widespread allegations of voter suppression, made it impossible for her to acknowledge his victory could be called a concession.

“Let’s be clear, this is not a speech of concession. Because concession means to acknowledge an action is right, true or proper. I will not concede because the erosion of our democracy is not right,” she said.

“As a woman of conscience and faith I cannot concede that. But my assessment is the law currently allows no further viable remedy. Pundits and hyperpartisans will hear my words as a rejection of the normal order. You see, I’m supposed to say nice things and accept my fate. They will complain that I should not use this moment to recap what was done wrong or to demand a remedy. You see, as a leader I should be stoic in my outrage and silent in my rebuke,” Abrams said. “But stoicism is a luxury and silence is a weapon for those who would quiet the voices of the people. And I will not concede because the erosion of our democracy is not right.”

Kemp, a hardline conservative closely aligned with Donald Trump, had remained Georgia’s secretary of state overseeing elections throughout the campaign, prompting suggestions of a conflict of interest.

The Abrams campaign filed a lawsuit shortly after polls closed to push for election workers to have more time to count provisional and absentee ballots. But on Friday (Nov. 16) Abrams acknowledged her campaign would bring no more litigation to contest the outcome of the vote.
Instead, Abrams said she planned to file a federal lawsuit against the state over what she described as “the gross mismanagement of this election and to protect future elections.”

Shortly after, Kemp issued a statement declaring the election was now over. “We can no longer dwell on the divisive politics of the past but must focus on
Georgia’s bright and promising future,” he said.

The gubernatorial race in Georgia drew national attention throughout the midterm election cycle as Barack Obama and Donald Trump rallied for the candidates of their respective parties. The state has not elected a Democratic governor since 1998 and had been seen as a potential bellwether of the  strength of Democratic resistance to Republicans since the election of Donald Trump.

The contest between the two had been one of the most closely watched— and bitter—of the cycle.

Abrams, who was vying to become the first black woman ever elected governor in U.S. history, had alleged throughout the campaign that Kemp, who stepped down as secretary of state after the election, had been working to disenfranchise minority voters, deny or delay new registrations and purge voting rolls.

Those charges spilled out well beyond Nov. 6, with the race too close to call. Abrams had been fighting to include additional provisional and absentee ballots into the count, hoping that could help close the roughly 18,000-vote deficit she needed to force a runoff next month.

“On election night, I declared that our fight to count every vote is not about me—it is about us. It is about the democracy that we share and the responsibility to preserve our way of life,” she said Friday.

“Voting is not a right for some—it is a right for all, and it is not a privilege,” Abrams emphasized, echoing the mindset of African- Americans who only decades ago fought for the right to vote—which was especially suppressed in places in the Deep South, and in Georgia.

But with a 5 p.m. Friday deadline for all of Georgia’s counties to certify their election results, a path for Abrams looked slim. It’s now up to interim secretary of state Robyn Crittenden to certify the state’s results.

According to the Associated Press, the Abrams campaign had considered additional legal challenges, including one before the state Supreme Court that was precipitated on a provision allowing a losing candidate to challenge results based on “misconduct, fraud or irregularities…sufficient to change or place the results in doubt.”

At her news conference, Abrams said she is not challenging the result in court, but that her campaign “will be filing a major federal lawsuit” against the state of Georgia “for the gross mismanagement of this election.”

In a statement following Abrams’ remarks, Kemp said that he was looking forward to moving beyond the campaign and protracted ballot disputes.

“I appreciate her passion, hard work, and commitment to public service,” Kemp said of Abrams. “The election is over and hardworking Georgians are ready to move forward. We can no longer dwell on the divisive politics of the past but must focus on Georgia’s bright and promising future.”

Abrams, the former state House minority leader, came much closer than any Georgia Democrat has in decades to flipping either the governor’s mansion or a Senate seat, despite other high-profile efforts.

As Atlanta suburbs diversify and grow, Democrats have argued the state could turn blue. This is the closest they’ve gotten to making that dream a reality.