Stacey Abrams refused to utter the L-word.
As the Associated Press called the Georgia governor’s race for Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp on Sunday, CNN’s Jake Tapper was asking his opponent whether she felt the victor was “the legitimate governor-elect."
Abrams, who had hoped to force a runoff with Kemp but conceded the race on Friday, pivoted to her concerns about irregularities, voter suppression and a last-minute investigation during her campaign for her state’s highest office. During the race, she had accused Kemp of actions antithetical to democracy: making it harder and in some cases impossible for certain groups of Georgians to vote.
So, with Abrams admitting Kemp was the winner, Tapper pressed during her first national interview since the election. He wanted to know whether she thought Kemp had a legitimate claim on the office, even as other Democrats publicly stated that the race had been stolen.
“The law as it stands says that he received an adequate number of votes to become the governor of Georgia,” Abrams said. “But we know sometimes the law does not do what it should, and something being legal does not make it right.
“Yes, when he takes the oath of office, he will be the legal governor of the state of Georgia,” Abrams continued, using another L-word. “But what you are looking for me to say is there was no compromise of our democracy and there should be some political compromise in the language that I use, and that’s not right. What’s not right is saying that something was done properly when it was not.
“ … Will I say that his election was not tainted, was not a disinvestment and a disenfranchisement of thousands of voters? I will not say that."
Abrams, who hoped to become the nation’s first female African American governor, has accused Kemp of widespread voter suppression and said voting irregularities tainted the election. The accusations had special sting because Kemp, as secretary of state, was essentially the referee in a race he was involved in.
On Friday, Kemp had 50.22 percent of the tally, an edge of nearly 55,000 votes.
Last week, Abrams said she planned to bring “a major federal lawsuit against the state of Georgia for gross mismanagement of this election.” She also said she planned to seek elected office again.
As The Washington Post’s Vanessa Williams and Felicia Sonmez reported, Kemp and Abrams have clashed over voting rights in Georgia for years.
Kemp has pushed for restrictive voter identification and registration laws that have purged more than 1 million voters from the rolls in recent years. Several of those laws were successfully challenged in court, which said they were violations of the federal Voting Rights Act.
More recently, Abrams and other Democrats accused Kemp of championing a law that disproportionately affected black voters and launching an 11th-hour investigation of the Democratic Party, which he accused of trying to hack the state’s voter registration system.
Kemp, in a statement issued Friday by spokesman Ryan Mahoney, praised Abrams’s “passion, hard work, and commitment to public service.”
“The election is over and hard-working Georgians are ready to move forward. We can no longer dwell on the divisive politics of the past but must focus on Georgia’s bright and promising future,” Kemp’s statement said.
But even in conceding, Abrams shot back with claims of dirty dealings.
“But to watch an elected official who claims to represent the people in this state baldly pin his hopes for election on the suppression of the people’s democratic right to vote has been truly appalling,” she said Friday.