GEORGIA
     Nov. 6, 2018 Governor

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+Brian Kemp (R)
1,978,408
50.22%
Stacey Abrams (D)
1,923,685
48.83%
Ted Metz (L.)
37,235
0.95%

3,939,328

Registered Voters: 6,428,581.  Ballots Cast: 3,949,905 Voter Turnout: 61.44%.
Plurality 54,723 votes (1.39 percentage points).

GA Secretary of State




Notes:
Gov. Nathan Deal (R) was term limited.  The race to succeed him attracted much national attention because of the possibility that Georgians might elect the nation's first black female governor.  After a contentious campaign, Stacey Abrams (D), 44, former minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives, came close, but Secretary of State Brian Kemp, 55, ultimately prevailed by 54,723 votes out of nearly four million cast (1.39 percentage points).

The primaries took place on May 22.  On the Democratic side Abrams
obtained 76.44% of the vote, defeating former state Rep. Stacey Evans.  On the Republican side, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle finished first in the primary, obtaining 39.01% of the vote to 25.55% for Kemp and 35.44% for three others.  In the primary campaign, Kemp ran several ads that attracted considerable comment.  One, "Jake," showed him cleaning a gun while talking to a young man who was wooing one of his daughters (+).  "So Conservative" showed Kemp as a tough guy, "so conservative I blow up government spending.  I own guns, that no one's taking away.  My chain saw's ready to rip up some regulations.  I got a big truck, just in case I need to round up criminal iillegals and take 'em home myself (+)."  As no candidate obtained 50% of the vote in the primary, the race went to a July 24 runoff between Cagle and Kemp.   President Trump endorsed Kemp in a tweet on July 18.  Kemp easily won the runoff by 69.45% to 30.55%.

Brian Kemp was appointed Secretary of State in 2010 and won elections in 2010 and 2014.  Previously he served one term in the state Senate, elected in 2002.  In 2006 he ran unsuccessfully for Agriculture Commissioner.  He also has varied business interests.  Stacey Abrams graduated from Yale Law School.  She served in the Georgia General Assembly from 2007-17, including as Minority Leader from 2011-17.  She also co-founded a financial services company and worked as a tax attorney.  In 2013 she founded the New Georgia Project, "a non-partisan effort to register and civically engage the rising electorate in our state."  She has written some novels under the pen name Selena Montgomery.  The third candidate on the November ballot, Libertarian Ted Metz, was semi-retired from a career as an insurance and financial professional.

Charges of voter suppression formed a major narrative in this race.  Critics have pointed to purges of the voter file which they say disproportionately affect people of color, but one study did not find "anything outstanding or damning (+)."
  During the election campaign an Oct. 10 Associated Press report that 53,000 voter registration applications, over 70 percent from minorities, were being held as "pending" due to  the "exact match" protocol drew widespread notice.  On Oct. 11 civil rights groups filed a lawsuit against Kemp (+).  The Republican Party of Georgia pushed back against "absolutely irresponsible" charges and emphasized that "53,000 Pending Voters CAN VOTE on Election Day (+)."  Further, the party noted, "Thanks to Online Voter Registration- i.e. Brian Kemp, it’s never been easier to vote in Georgia."  In July Kemp pointed out that, “Under my tenure as Secretary of State, Georgia has shattered records for voter registration and turn-out across all demographic groups."  In a statement he said, “Despite any claim to the contrary, it has never been easier to register to vote in Georgia and actively engage in the electoral process." 

The three candidates participated in one televised debate, on Oct. 23 in Atlanta, hosted by the Atlanta Press Club (+).  A second debate was scheduled for Nov. 4 on WSB Channel 2 Action News.  Kemp withdrew from the long-scheduled event so he could rally with Trump in Macon (+) and suggested rescheduling.  Finger pointing ensued and the second debate never occurred.  (Abrams campaign: "We believe it would be irresponsible to break our commitment to accomodate his failures."  Kemp campaign: "We offered multiple days, times, and venues to debate. Sadly, Stacey Abrams refused and canceled the debate.") 

In addition to President Trump's appearance , Vice President Pence held three rallies with Kemp on Nov. 1, and Sen. Marco Rubio appeared at a rally on Oct. 22.  Abrams, meanwhile, was a star candidate for Democrats, featured on the covers of Time (Aug. 6-13, 2018 "The South Issue") and The Nation (Nov. 12, 2018 "New Georgia Rising?").  Nonetheless all manner of politicians and celebrities came to Georgia to help her campaign including Cory Booker (Jan. 13), Julian Castro (April 17), Kamala Harris (May 11), Elizabeth Warren (Oct. 9), Oprah Winfrey (Nov. 1) and Barack Obama (Nov. 2).  (Joe Biden didn't make it. He had been scheduled to appear on Sept. 24, but postponed).  

Critics raised ethics questions about both candidates.  Reports highlighted a lack of transparency in Abrams' work on two foundations and the associated New Voter Project.  Kemp drew criticism for staying on as Secretary of State while running for governor.  In an Oct. 22 letter former President Jimmy Carter urged Kemp to leave his position as Secretary of State, writing, "you are now overseeing the election in which you are a candidate. This runs counter to the most fundamental principle of democratic elections..."  And right before Election Day, on Nov. 4, Kemp's office made a sketchy announcement of an investigation focusing on the Georgia Democratic Party over an alleged hacking attempt of the state's voter registration system.

According to the National Institute on Money in Politics, the Abrams campaign received contributions totalling $22.8 million and the Kemp campaign, which had a primary and runoff, $21.1 million (+).  Outside groups also weighed in.

The Kemp campaign declared victory on the evening of Nov. 7, and he resigned as Secretary of State on Nov. 8.  However, there were still votes to be counted, and a contentious post-election period unfolded (+).  The Abrams campaign pointed to irregularities and uncounted ballots and pressed to count every vote, while the Kemp campaign emphasized his "strong lead" and argued "it is mathematically impossible for Abrams to force a runoff or win." 
(If Kemp fell below the 50-percent threshhold it would force a Dec. runoff).  Lawyers were mobilized.  The Secretary of State website summarizes thusly:

"To comply with U.S. District Judge Totenberg’s order, twenty-seven counties were required to conduct a second review of provisional ballots rejected for code ‘PR,’ meaning that individuals did not appear on the voter rolls when they cast provisional ballots. To comply with orders by U.S. District Judges Jones and May, all counties were required to count absentee by mail ballots where those ballots were previously rejected solely due to missing or inaccurate dates of birth."

On Nov. 16 Abrams ended her campaign, but refused to concede, declaring,
"I will not concede because the erosion of our democracy is not right."  "Under the watch of the now former Secretary of State, democracy failed Georgians of every political party, every race, every region,” Abrams said, and she vowed to file a "major federal lawsuit against the state of Georgia for the gross mismanagement of this election and to protect future elections from unconstitutional actions (>)."  Fair Fight Action, a group headed by Abrams' former campaign manager, announced the lawsuit on Nov. 27.

See also:
Greg Bluestein.  "A high-profile Democratic voting group faces new scrutiny."  The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, April 13, 2015.

William Perry.  "Unethical Abrams: 10 ethics reasons why Georgians should not vote for Stacey Abrams for Governor."  Georgia Ethics Watchdogs, May 17, 2018.

Alan Judd, "Voter drive raised millions, but Abrams won’t say from whom."
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sept. 14, 2018.

Alan Judd.  "For Brian Kemp, suit over bad loan reveals political, financial perils."  The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sept. 21, 2018.

Patrick Saunders.  "Meet Stacey Abrams' big queer campaign team."  Project Q Atlanta, Oct. 12, 2018.

Joan Walsh.  "Stacey Abrams Always Knew They'd Try to Cheat."  The Nation, Oct. 18, 2018.

Rich Lowry.  "The Georgia Smear."  National Review, Nov. 9, 2018.



Campaign Managers:
Brian Kemp: 
Tim Fleming
Chief of staff to Secretary of State Kemp from July 1, 2011; previously assistant director in the election division.  Campaign manager to Kemp in his 2010 campaign.


Stacey Abrams:  Lauren Groh-Wargo
Served as Abrams' top aide at her two foundations, Third Sector Development (which ran the new Georgia Project) and Voter Access Institutute.









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