ATLANTA - Is Georgia’s battle for governor over yet? The short answer is no. But a day after polls closed, one side has proclaimed victory while the other has asserted a refusal to surrender.
Republican Brian Kemp's campaign adviser said the campaign is declaring victory in the Georgia governor's race even through Kemp has not said those words himself.
That claim to victory has come ahead of what traditionally is a race being “called” either by FOX News, The Associated Press, or one of the other major new organizations who have strict policies and formulas for determining who the winner of a race might be based on an available vote count and sometimes taking exit polls into consideration.
"Brian Kemp earned nearly two million votes on Tuesday - by far the most of any gubernatorial candidate in our state's history," Cody Hall, the Kemp campaign’s press secretary was quoted as saying. "Absentee ballots are counted and Kemp leads his opponent by 64,000 votes. Based on counts released by the Secretary of State's office, Brian Kemp's margin is so large that the number of provisional ballots and overseas ballots will not change his Election Day victory. Simply put, it is mathematically impossible for Stacey Abrams to win or force a run-off election.”
Democrat Stacey Abrams has consistently said she will not concede until every vote is counted, those include absentee ballots and eligible provisional ballots. The Abrams campaign said there are at least 25,000 provisional and additional absentee ballots that have not even been factored into the tally released late Wednesday.
Abrams staff said during a conference call with reporters that they are having a hard time getting exact numbers from the Secretary of State’s office, which is run by Kemp, and believe those ballots might be from predominantly Democratic areas, but Kemp’s office has not provided a breakdown.
According to the numbers that have been reported to FOX 5 News, there is a difference of about 62,881 votes, which is about 25,000 short of sending the race into a runoff in December.
Abrams campaign said they have assembled a legal team to ensure every vote that can be counted will be counted.
Despite the Abrams campaign not conceding, Kemp’s staff said they are preparing to start the process of transitioning to the governor’s office as of Thursday morning.
"Peach State voters made a clear decision at the ballot box. Brian Kemp will now begin his transition as governor-elect of Georgia. He will work every day to keep our state moving in the right direction," Hall was quoted as saying in a release sent to FOX 5 News.
Neither candidate has made a public appearance since addressing their supporters at their respective watch parties early Wednesday morning.
Abrams, who was vying to be the first black woman in U.S. history to be elected governor, spoke with her supporters just after 1:30 a.m. Wednesday at a packed ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta.
"Votes remain to be counted. There are voters that remain to be heard," Abrams told the crowd. "I promise you tonight that every vote is counted - every single vote."
"This election has tested our faith. I'm not going to name names but some have worked hard to take our voices away," Abrams told her supporters.
“If I wasn't your first choice, or if you made no choice at all, you're going to have a chance to do a do-over,” Abrams said, hinting at a possible runoff in December.
Kemp was running to maintain Republican control in a state Democrats believe is nearing presidential battleground status.
About an hour and 10 minutes after Abrams addressed her supporters in Atlanta early Wednesday morning, Kemp took the stage at the Classic Center in Athens to address a packed house of supporters who stayed until the early morning hours to hear their candidate.
Confidence was flying high during Kemp’s introductions early Wednesday morning, nearly claiming victory. Kemp came out in a jovial mode, poking fun at his wife and daughters, who have stood by his side the entire campaign, for his late appearance.
But Kemp, who spent most of the time thanking his closest supporters, did not claim outright victory at his campaign party.
“There's votes left to be counted, but we have a very strong lead,” Kemp told the crowd. “The math is on our side.”
The contest turned bitter as Abrams and Kemp traded charges of shenanigans during their campaigns.
Abrams said Kemp abused his post as Secretary of State to make it harder for certain citizens to vote.
Kemp countered that Abrams and her backers wanted to help noncitizens cast ballots illegally.
Libertarian candidate Ted Metz ended up receiving about 1 percent of the vote in the race.
The Associated Press contributed to this report