Democrat Stacey Abrams ended her campaign for governor of Georgia on Friday. She said she believes voting irregularities tainted the election but acknowledged that former Georgia secretary of state Brian Kemp would be the state’s next governor.
Abrams, who had hoped to become the nation’s first elected female African American governor, had worked to force a runoff with Kemp, who as of late Thursday led by 54,801 votes out of 3.9 million cast.
Kemp’s 50.22 percent of the tally put the Republican just above the 50 percent-plus-one-vote threshold required to avoid a runoff election in December.
It was, however, the end of a campaign whose outcome had remained uncertain for days as Abrams pressed for the counting of ballots that had been rejected for minor errors. Kemp drew criticism from Democrats for championing a controversial voting law disproportionately affecting black voters and, days before the midterms, launching an investigation into Democrats, alleging a “hacking” attempt into the voter registration system.
Earlier Friday, Abrams, the former Democratic leader of the Georgia House, was considering filing a separate lawsuit contesting the results and demanding a new election. That would have been based on a provision in Georgia law that allows losing candidates to challenge results.
She said she would pray for Kemp’s success and that she asked that he “pledge to fight for the rights of those who disagree with him.”
Kemp, in a statement issued by spokesman Ryan Mahoney, praised Abrams’s “passion, hard work, and commitment to public service.”
Abrams, 44, and Kemp, 55, have long clashed over voting rights. Four years ago, Abrams founded the New Georgia Project, with a goal of adding hundreds of thousands of people of color to the voting rolls. Abrams is no longer affiliated with the group that she says signed up more than 200,000 potential new voters, but most of them never made it onto the rolls.
Kemp accused the group of voter fraud and launched an investigation that found no wrongdoing. He has pursued restrictive voter registration and identification laws and has purged more than 1 million voters from the rolls in recent years — actions that Abrams and activists say amount to suppression.
Several of those laws have been successfully challenged in court as violations of the federal Voting Rights Act, including rulings that have come down before and since the Nov. 6 election.
Since the election, the Abrams campaign, through court filings and news conferences, had shared stories of individuals who had trouble casting ballots.
Voters told of:
• Having waited up to four hours to vote
• Not receiving absentee ballots that they requested
• Getting inaccurate information from county elections officials
The lawsuits also have revealed a lack of uniformity in how counties address problems with absentee and provisional ballots. Although some counties try to contact voters to fix mistakes and omissions in their voting documents, others simply reject the ballots.
Kemp’s victory was made possible through a come-from-behind surge in the Republican primary earlier this year, in which he received the endorsement of Trump and aired several provocative TV ads in which he wielded guns and pledged to round up “criminal illegals” in his pickup truck.
Abrams became a national sensation after winning the primary, and she had received support from former presidents Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter as well as media mogul Oprah Winfrey. She made health care a major focus of her campaign, as did other Democrats around the country in this year’s midterms.
The issue of race loomed large over the campaign in its final weeks, however. A racist and anti-Semitic robo-call targeting Abrams began making the rounds about a week before Election Day. The call was produced by the Road to Power, a white-supremacist group based in Idaho. Kemp’s campaign also came under criticism for an election-eve tweet attempting to tie Abrams to a radical group, the New Black Panther Party.
John Wagner contributed to this report.