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THE LATEST: Kemp declares win, says rival using 'old math'

Via FOX 5

UPDATE -- 8:30 a.m. THURSDAY

Republican Brian Kemp says he and his campaign are declaring victory because it isn't possible for his opponent to pick up enough votes to force a runoff.

Democrat Stacey Abrams' campaign has said there are still enough uncounted votes to force a Dec. 4 runoff and that they need to pick up about 15,000 votes to do so.

In an interview with WSB Radio Thursday, Kemp says his rival's campaign is using "old math." Without providing specifics, he said the number "is actually more like 30,000 votes."

Abrams' campaign manager Lauren Groh-Wargo says Kemp has offered no proof of why anyone should take his word.

Kemp plans a 10 a.m. news conference Thursday at the Georgia Capitol, where he will be meeting with Gov. Nathan Deal to begin the transition to the governor's office.

UPDATE

Following a declaration of victory in Georgia's race for governor from the Brian Kemp campaign Wednesday afternoon, Stacey Abrams' team hadn't confirmed that she's conceded as of 7 p.m.

Abrams' campaign team said they believe there are more Democratic votes and that they're not taking any options off the table yet - including a recount. Her campaign manager told media "We do not accept his victory," and added there's no documentation of the votes that have yet to be counted.

According to her team, Kemp didn't tell Abrams that he was claiming victory and the Secretary of State's office has not communicated with her.

Abrams has received more than one million votes - a historical achievement according to her representatives. Her team's next step is keep making sure Georgians' votes are heard and counted correctly, they said.

The Democratic candidate's reps added that her litigation team is contacting every precinct in Georgia individually to get a count. Additionally, mail from Dougherty County had been re-routed to Tallahassee because of Hurricane Michael - so those votes haven't been counted and there's no word yet and when those ballots will be received, Abrams' team said Wednesday.

To avoid a runoff race, either Kemp or Abrams would have to get half of the total number of votes plus one. If that doesn't happen, Georgians will be voting again in December.

One local political expert explained why it's not yet known if that has happened yet.

"That final number depends on what each county reports officially to the Secretary of State, and so it's looking like there's going to be in the neighborhood of 3.9 to 4 million voters in Georgia, so basically whatever that number is, half of that plus one. We don't know that exactly because there are provisional ballots that can still be [counted] right now there are still some questions about how many absentee ballots have or have not been counted," said Tom Ellington, professor of political science at Wesleyan College.

Although Kemp hadn't been officially declared the winner, current Georgia governor Nathan Deal tweeted out his congratulations to Kemp and his family Wednesday evening.

Deal's tweet said, in part, "In office, Brian will have opportunities to further the successes we’ve seen in GA over the last 8 years- in business climate, education, criminal justice reform and more."

Deal sent another tweet shortly thereafter mentioning that his team will be working with the "incoming administration" in the next few days.

UPDATE

Brian Kemp's campaign has declared victory in the Georgia governor's race - but the Associated Press says it's not over yet.

Kemp's campaign, as well as Atlanta-area media outlets, tweeted around 5 p.m. Wednesday that he is "delcaring victory." According to the AP however, not all of the ballots have been counted yet.

Stacey Abrams' campaign has not released a response.

UPDATE

ATLANTA (AP) — Two of Georgia's largest counties were still tabulating thousands of votes as Democrat Stacey Abrams tries to narrow the gap in a close race for governor with Republican Brian Kemp.

Gwinnett County spokesman Joe Sorenson said Wednesday that nearly 20,000 absentee ballots and about 2,000 provisional ballots were being counted. He didn't know how many had been counted or when that would be complete.

In Fulton County, Director of Registration and Elections Richard Barron says nearly 3,700 provisional ballots have yet to be counted, along with an unknown number of ballots mailed from overseas.

Kemp has just more than 50 percent of the vote, which would give him the majority threshold needed to secure a victory.

Abrams and her campaign said Wednesday that they hope to pick up about 15,000 votes to force a runoff.

-----------------------------

UPDATE

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia’s hotly contested and potentially historic governor’s race may not be over yet, with Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp awaiting the final accounting of absentee and provisional ballots.

With reported votes approaching 3.8 million, Kemp was just shy of 51 percent, but Abrams and her campaign said there were enough ballots outstanding, particularly absentee ballots in heavily Democratic metro Atlanta counties, to bring the Republican below the majority threshold required for victory.

“We believe our chance for a stronger Georgia is just within reach, but we cannot seize it until all voices are heard,” Abrams told excited supporters who remained at a downtown Atlanta hotel into the early hours of Wednesday. “I promise you tonight we’re going to make sure that every vote is counted,” Abrams added.

As the clock neared 3 a.m., Kemp took his turn on a hotel stage in his hometown of Athens and expressed confidence that a final result — whenever it comes — will go his way.

“There are votes left to count, but we have a very strong lead,” Kemp said. “And folks, make no mistake, the math is on our side to win this election.”

If Kemp and Abrams were to finish below 50 percent, they would meet in a Dec. 4 runoff. Abrams’ campaign estimated early Wednesday morning that there are at least 97,000 ballots to be counted and she’d need a net gain of 24,379 votes to trigger a runoff.

That would mean four more weeks of bitter, race-laden campaigning in a contest both have described as a “battle for the soul of our state.”

With most of the rest of nation finishing its midterm campaigns, that would also focus a white-hot spotlight on a race that already has drawn massive investments of time, money and star power — from President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama to media icon Oprah Winfrey — with Abrams trying to make history as the first black woman to lead a U.S. state and Kemp trying to keep GOP-run Georgia from sliding into presidential battleground status ahead of 2020.

Kemp mentioned Trump’s backing in his remarks early Wednesday, but said having his supporters in front of him was more important. “Over the last 21 months, we’ve chopped a lot of wood,” he said.

The prospects of a razor-thin result and potential runoff come after weeks of wrangling over a Georgia election system that Kemp runs in his post as secretary of state, leaving open the possibility that Abrams supporters may not accept a loss. Kemp has steadfastly defended his job performance and refused calls to step aside — the latest coming in an Election Day lawsuit.

The Protect Democracy nonprofit announced that it filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking to keep Kemp from being involved in counting votes, certifying results or any runoff or recount. The lawsuit says that Kemp presiding over an election in which he is a candidate “violates a basic notion of fairness.” Secretary of State’s office spokeswoman Candice Broce called the lawsuit a “twelfth-hour stunt.”

Abrams has called Kemp “an architect of suppression,” and voting rights activists expressed concerns throughout Tuesday amid widespread reports of technical malfunctions and long lines at polling stations across the state. Some said they waited three hours to cast ballots, and watched dozens of voters abandon lines in frustration.

The elections chief wasn’t immune to the difficulties: When Kemp went to cast his ballot, he had an issue with his voter card, but it was fixed quickly. He walked by reporters and said, “Take Two.”

Abrams, a 44-year-old Atlanta attorney, former state minority leader and moonlighting romance novelist, already has made history as the first black woman to be nominated for governor by either major party. She’d also be the first woman or nonwhite governor in Georgia history.

Kemp, a 54-year-old businessman and veteran secretary of state, is vying to maintain the GOP’s hold in a state where Republicans have won every governor’s race since 2002, though by increasingly narrow margins amid a growing and diversifying electorate.

Ballot access and election integrity flared up in the final weekend after a private citizen alerted the Georgia Democratic Party and a private attorney of vulnerability in the online voter database Kemp oversees. The attorney alerted the FBI and Kemp’s office, and then Kemp announced, without providing any evidence, that he was launching an investigation into Georgia Democrats for “possible cybercrimes.”

Kemp pushed back Monday against concerns that his call for an investigation is politically motivated. Abrams would have none of that, declaring Kemp a “bald-faced liar” intent on deflecting attention from security problems with his system.

The contest has been so intense that early voting approached the overall number of ballots cast in the governor’s race four years ago.

“I’ve never seen a time where the state of Georgia had more at stake than we do in this contest,” Kemp told supporters at one campaign stop.

In the closing days, Kemp basked in Trump’s glow, pulling out of a debate to attend a Sunday rally that drew thousands of boisterous Republicans to central Georgia to see Trump deplane from Air Force One.

Abrams, meanwhile, argued that the contest should be about more than identity politics.

“I don’t want anyone to vote for me because I’m black,” she told supporters in Savannah on Monday. “And no one on the ballot needs a vote because we’re women. And I don’t even want you to vote for us just because we’re Democrats. You need to vote for us because we’re better.”

On policy, the principal dividing lines are health care (Abrams wants to expand Medicaid insurance; Kemp wants to maintain Georgia’s refusal); education (Kemp supports private school vouchers; Abrams opposes them); and criminal justice (Kemp is a law-and-order conservative; Abrams focuses on rehabilitating non-violent offenders and criticizes cash bail as unfair to poorer defendants).

The Georgia outcome also is among the most closely watched of any midterm contest because of Abrams’ aggressive strategy to attract new voters — particularly nonwhites and younger Georgians — with an unabashedly liberal message, rather than focusing on older voters within the traditional midterm electorate.

The excruciatingly close outcome partly validates Abrams’ strategy, but Kemp also expand the Republican advantage across rural and small-town Georgia.

___

Associated Press writers Kate Brumback and Jeff Martin in Atlanta contributed to this report.

ORIGINAL STORY

MACON, Ga. -- Tuesday is the last chance for Georgia voters to make it to the polls - and for anyone who hasn't voted yet, WGXA breaks down the state's gubernatorial candidates.

STAY UPDATED ON LIVE ELECTION RESULTS HERE

Republican candidate Brian Kemp, Libertarian candidate Ted Metz and Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams have been hot on the campaign trail for months.

RELATED: Breaking down the numbers: Contributions to Kemp, Abrams campaigns

On healthcare Metz, Kemp and Abrams all have different ideas about what changes should be made.

"As your next governor I will expand Medicaid to make sure every Georgian can access and afford high quality healthcare," Abrams said.

"We will cut taxes, we will lower healthcare premiums, not expand a broken government program that will cause your taxes to triple to pay for it," Kemp said.

"There are several models out there of other alternative care delivery that benefit the patients more with better healthcare access better healthcare outcomes," Metz said.

RELATED: Abrams, Kemp and Metz face off at 2018 Georgia Governor's Debate

On education, Abrams states on her website that she wants to eliminate private school tax credits and put tax credits towards public schools and expand the public school funding model.

"I know every child no matter every child no matter their zip code or family income will have a world class education from cradle all the way to career," Abrams said.

According to Kemp's website, he wants to focus on increasing teacher pay to retain educators to improve Georgia's literacy rate and plans to deregulate public education.

"You will have a governor that will invest in education and five our teachers a well-deserved $5,000 dollar pay raise," Kemp said.

Metz said there's an administration overload in schools and advocates for getting the government out of education.

"We can reduce the number of administrators and then actually take the teachers to start teaching to the student rather than start teaching to a test," he said.

RELATED: What's on your Georgia ballot besides candidates in the 2018 midterms?

Find out more information about this year's midterms on WGXA's Know Your Candidates and Beyond the Podium pages. Our reporters will also have live election coverage for you this Election Day.


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