Nov 8, 2018, 3:45 PM ET

Brian Kemp declares himself winner in Georgia governor's race, stepping down as secretary of state. ABC News has not projected a winner.

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Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp has declared victory in the gubernatorial race and says he is stepping down as the state’s top election official Thursday to begin his transition to governor.

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ABC News has not yet projected the winner of this race, which remains within 1 percentage point.

Kemp's resignation comes at the tail end of a race in which he's been dogged by critics, including opponent Stacey Abrams and former President Jimmy Carter, who have urged him to resign throughout the course of the race because of potential conflict of interest as secretary of state, a position that encompasses overseeing of elections. Speaking at a press conference Thursday, Kemp said stepping down would "give public confidence to the certification process."

But when asked why he chose to resign now, Kemp denied it was because of the criticism.

"I wasn’t really concerned about that but I think in light of where we are now, this will give public confidence to the certification process," Kemp said.

"We’ve had other Democrat secretaries of state serve in their own election many, many times, including a run for governor," he said. "I don’t feel like anyone was better suited than myself. But not only myself, but my great team that we have in the elections division, the great partnership we have created with the county elections officials that actually run the Election Day today.”

But Abrams' campaign criticized how the election was handled, including Kemp's declaration of victory before all the votes have been counted, and said Kemp's resignation came only after he oversaw the election.

"He decided to not resign. He decided to oversee his own election. That was not our choice. He owns this, and he owes the people of Georgia an explanation," Abrams' campaign manager Lauren Groh-Wargo said in a press conference Thursday.

ABC News has not yet projected a winner in the Kemp-Abrams race because ABC News does not project races that fall within a margin of 1 percentage point, due to concerns about errors in the vote tabulation or possible outstanding votes still to be counted. In Georgia, a winning candidate needs to clear 50 percent plus one to avoid a runoff.

While Kemp leads Abrams 51 percent to 48 percent, he is not more than 1 percentage point away from breaking 50 percent -- which is required for victory in Georgia.

Kemp said he believes his lead is insurmountable. Republican Gov. Nathan Deal has also recognized him as the winner of the election.

On Thursday afternoon, Deal appointed former Georgia Department of Human Services Commissioner Robyn A. Crittendon to fill Kemp's vacant seat. Crittendon is the first African-American woman to serve as a statewide constitutional officer in Georgia history, according to Deal's office. In the release, Deal referred to Kemp as "Gov.-elect."

PHOTO: Stacey Abrams, left, and Brian Kemp.AP, FILE
Stacey Abrams, left, and Brian Kemp.

Abrams is not conceding as she awaits a trove of provisional ballots to be counted and prepares legal action for a potential recount. Her campaign believes there are enough votes still outstanding to force a runoff. A runoff election is required under state law if no candidate achieves a clear majority of the vote.

Her campaign's legal team laid out the strategy going forward at Thursday's press conference. The campaign also said they are filing a lawsuit in Dougherty County, which was hit by Hurricane Michael, claiming that voters were denied the opportunity to cast ballots by mail during the general election.

"All the votes haven't been counted. How can anybody claim a victory when there are enough votes that have not been counted that could cause a run-off here?" asked John Chandler, a member of Abrams' legal team.

"We will litigate until we determine that every person's vote has been counted," Chandler said.

The campaign pointed to numerous irregularities and instances where they have been told that all early and provisional ballots have been counted, only to see more vote come in after the fact. They also say they are still receiving complaints and letters from voters and supporters claiming voting issues.

“The Secretary of State Brian Kemp owes voters an explanation. We need to see lists, we need to see counts of every single vote. We need to see all the military provisional numbers. They all need to be counted. We do not believe any of these numbers are credible," said Groh-Wargo.

Allegra Lawrence-Hardy, a member of Abrams' legal team, thanked voters for fighting to get their ballots accepted.

"Stacey Abrams has been fighting for people her whole life and we are going to keep fighting for every voter," Lawrence-Hardy said.

Both members of Abrams' legal team noted a particular push to count all the absentee and provisional ballots in the state. Lawrence-Hardy called for the secretary of state's office to "release all the data, all the numbers, and they need to count every single vote."

Kemp, speaking at his press conference, said about 20,000 provisional ballots remain uncounted in the race -- a number that he said is not enough to put Abrams over the top.

ABC News' Johnny Verhovek and Steve Osunsami contributed to this report.

News - Brian Kemp declares himself winner in Georgia governor's race, stepping down as secretary of state. ABC News has not projected a winner.

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CComments

  • John

    Democrats are the sorest losers in the history of mankind. "Collusion" "Obstruction" "Comey" "The Russians" "The electoral college" "White married women" it is never ending. You are the kids from the grocery store, decades ago, that would scream and throw tantrums because they couldn't get what they wanted.

  • Bill Smith

    Watching Kemp throw hissy fits when he was questioned about not recusing himself on local tv just made me more sure of my vote for Abrams. He gives white people a bad name. It's a shame that he'll probably win.

  • Colinalcarz

    Abrams should sue to have the voter review process Kemp put in place to filter out votes evaluated. If the court decides he wrongfully tossed votes then it shouldn't matter whether the number eliminated plus the other late processed votes ends up being enough to throw the election into a runoff, Kemp should be disqualified on the basis of his action of squelching the vote alone. Carter was right as well, Kemp should have resigned from the start to avoid even the appearance of conflict of interest during the election. The fact that he did not suggests he felt the need to stay in office to play with the numbers if he needed to.

  • Dee breeks

    GOOD OL' BOYS...have been cheating, lying and stealing for Years, and getting away with it because other GOOD OL' BOYS just look away, turn their heads and act like they didnt see the Fraud?..lol....goes back years of cheating, changing rules, laws in the court or even in sports!..example, in sports...Ernie Davis won the Heisman in 1961?..huh, There was several STARS before him, that were not selected because GODD OL' BOYS wanted to hold them out!

  • Pologize3

    It would be so funny to see him lose a run-off election and then have no job at all since he just resigned.

  • foldincaulfield

    But when asked why he chose to resign now, Kemp denied it was because of the criticism.

    "... saying, instead, that it's because his voter-suppression plan has been carried out to its completion."

  • PeterFromDuluth

    After all the harm is done, the Georgia Governor appointed an African American woman as new Secretary of State for the few days. What a convenient choice! Good job GOP!

  • Thomas

    It’s not the people who vote that count.
    It’s the people who count the votes that count

  • Oconee

    Abrams is as crooked as the day is long. How is it that one cannot afford to pay $50,000 in Federal Income Tax owed but can afford to loan their campaign $50,000. She said she could not pay her income tax because the money was used to help pay for her Father's cancer treatment. I don't know how old her Father was at the time of his treatment but I do know that he was covered by either Medicare or the Methodist Church Health Insurance plan. He and his wife are both retired Methodist Ministers. I'd be interested in seeing the bills showing how one can incur $50,000 in medical cost when they have either an excellent medical plan or Medicare coverage. Also, how much money does one make in order to generate $50,000 in federal income tax? Is it ok to not pay your income tax as long as you can say the money went to a noble cause? I find it interesting that the MSM never called her out on all of her lies.

  • 40acre

    Stepping down as Secretary of State.....I guess he doesn't need to control the counting anymore. What a corrupt system that was to allow one of the candidates to control the voting. Georgia should be ashamed.

  • EC Patriot

    Egregiously corrupt, by any measure! The process must undergo a thorough criminal investigation by an independent source!

  • Bud Simpson

    "Kemp's resignation comes at the tail end of a race in which he's been dogged by critics, including opponent Stacey Abrams and former President Jimmy Carter, who have urged him to resign throughout the course of the race because of potential conflict of interest as secretary of state, a position that encompasses overseeing of elections."

    Do you mean conflict of interest, or political dirty trick, when he did this on Nov. 4:

    "Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s dual roles as both referee and Republican competitor in the state’s gubernatorial election collided Sunday, when the government office he controls announced an investigation into the Georgia Democratic Party for an alleged “hacking” attempt into the voter registration system and his campaign for governor subsequently condemned the “criminal behavior” he allegedly discovered."

    If Kemp isn't prosecuted for this, it will expose that dirty politics is status quo for Georgia.

  • Nearl56 12

    The really filthy trick was the self dealing two days before the election where Kemp acting as Secretary of State ordered an investigation into the Democratic Party.

    These Trumpites are shamelessly thwarting any resemblance of integrity.

    But in racist Georgia, anything goes.

  • Summer Tyme

    Meanwhile the democrats house victory is now up to 30 seats.😎

  • Heath Starkey

    Haha! "Brian Kemp claims victory. ABC has not projected a winner" 🤣🤣🤣 Well good thing ABC doesn't decide winners of elections. Voters do. He has nearly 70,000 more votes than Abrams. He won. It dosen't matter what ABC projects. 🤣🤣🤣

  • kritikosman

    What a setup!

  • Richard Nast

    Kemp is like 60,000 votes ahead the last I heard.

  • HadEnoughYet

    And Sinema took the lead in AZ.

    GO AMERICA!

  • Patrick Clapton

    The Democrats are preparing to steal yet another election, something they have specialized in for decades.

  • Murfski

    I live in northern Florida, but Georgia is close enough that I have some interest in what happens there. Kemp said stepping down would "give public confidence to the certification process." It's a bit late for that. He's lost the confidence of a large part of Georgia's population already, and resigning the position now is not going to help; he should have done s long ago.

    I just had a thought: he resigned his position as State Attorney General, with the recount still in progress. If it goes against him, he'll be unemployed, and Gov. Abrams will have to find someone to fill the slot.

  • Indie

    1/3 of Kemp's voters are racists. This election was a race alright - a battle of the races: white vs. black. Shameful.

  • RetiredMSgt

    This site has this article posted 3 times on the front page. Why nothing about what's happening in FL? 2 counties are failing to follow the law and keep finding democrat votes. If we had some investigative reporters we might be able to find out what's happening.

  • Jiba

    no need to project. he is the winner.

  • Kenneth Sousa

    ". . . and he owes the people of Georgia an explanation . . ." - sounds like sour grapes to me. Just accept defeat and move on.

  • Ryan MacIntosh 2

    Does this mean Oprah isn't going to give out cars? What a bummer.

  • RededWhiteandBlue

    The liberals, and the liberal media, can't accept defeat.

  • Band, On the Run

    ABC may not call it, but I will.

    The white guy will win.

  • Misha

    He should have stepped down months ago!! Now we know that he will cheat to win!