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Stacey Abrams Concedes To Brian Kemp In Georgia's Governor Race


Stacey Abrams has ended her bid to be Georgia's next governor. She would have been the first black woman ever elected governor in U.S. history. She fought a contentious race against Republican Brian Kemp. Speaking to supporters today, Abrams says she saw no viable way to win and spoke passionately about how the race played out.


STACEY ABRAMS: Democracy failed Georgia.

CORNISH: Kemp was secretary of state, the position that oversees elections in Georgia through Election Day despite many calling for him to step down.


ABRAMS: You see; the incompetence and mismanagement we witnessed in this election had been on display months before.

CORNISH: Johnny Kauffman of WABE has been following this race from the beginning. He's joining us now from Atlanta. And, Johnny, this was a very serious condemnation by Abrams of Brian Kemp. He's now governor-elect. What's the reaction been?

JOHNNY KAUFFMAN, BYLINE: You know, those are really strong words - you're right - stronger than what she was saying during the campaign. And I was actually struck by Kemp's response. Secretary Kemp or former Secretary Kemp is really a fighter who likes to make liberals and civil rights groups a foil for him. And in the email statement his campaign sent us, he said this about Abrams. He said, I appreciate her passion, hard work and commitment to public service. He did not attack back. And so I think we may be seeing Kemp here realizing that he's going to be governor. And that's a much different role than the positions he's been in before. And, you know, maybe he's trying to move away from this fight and try and put it behind him.

CORNISH: Can you talk more about the tone of the speech and what she had to say? This campaign's poured so much time and energy into the race post-election.

KAUFFMAN: They have made a point that every vote should be counted. And Abrams has really focused on expanding voting rights and voting access throughout her career. And on the other side of that, you have Kemp, who was Georgia's secretary of state while the race was going on, the state's top election official. And under Kemp and the Republican legislature, there have been more obstacles that have been put up to voting in Georgia. And these were obstacles put up in the name of fraud. And I think, you know, that's part of why Abrams is saying here, you know, the math isn't there for me. I'm going - I'm not conceding 'cause I don't think she thinks this was really a fair system that she was in. So here's what she had to say about that.


ABRAMS: Let's be clear. This is not a speech of concession because concession means to acknowledge an action is right, true or proper. As a woman of conscience and faith, I cannot concede that. But my assessment is the law currently allows no further viable remedy.

KAUFFMAN: And so, you know, Kemp will be the next governor in Georgia, but Abrams will continue to fight to expand voting access.

CORNISH: This has been such, as we said, a contentious campaign. Do you think the end of this race will calm things?

KAUFFMAN: Maybe for a little bit (laughter). I think that Georgia is very divided right now. We haven't had this close of a governor's race in a long time. And to have the result as contested as it was, I think that will continue to stick with us maybe for the next four years while Kemp is a governor.

CORNISH: And in the meantime, for Stacey Abrams, do you think her legal fight is over?

KAUFFMAN: As far as from the campaign standpoint, yes. But she said in this speech that she's going to establish a group called Fair Fight Georgia that will continue to address voting issues and file some sort of major federal lawsuit - we don't know what that means - over the management or, as she put it, mismanagement of this election.

CORNISH: That's WABE's Johnny Kauffman speaking to us from Atlanta. Thank you.

KAUFFMAN: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Johnny joined WABE in March, 2015. Before joining the station, he was a producer at Georgia Public Broadcasting, and NPR in Washington D.C.