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Stacey Abrams still hoping for a runoff as Brian Kemp’s lead narrows in Georgia governor’s race

ATLANTA — Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee for governor of Georgia, continued Wednesday to hold out hope for a runoff with Republican Brian Kemp, who saw his lead shrink a bit overnight but was still ahead with more than 50 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results.

Kemp was just over 15,000 votes above the threshold to avoid a runoff, said Lauren Groh-Wargo, Abrams’s campaign manager, who estimates there are at least that many outstanding mail-in ballots that have yet to be counted in Democratic-leaning counties.

Earlier Wednesday, the campaign estimated that there are at least 77,000 outstanding ballots, including absentee and provisional votes cast on Tuesday. As of 11 a.m., unofficial returns showed Abrams trailing Kemp by just over 67,000 votes.

“We are committed and remain committed to ensuring that every vote is counted,” Groh-Wargo said, adding that the campaign’s legal team was reviewing Georgia elections laws and continuing to collect information about problems in some counties with long lines and broken machines at the polls on Tuesday and outstanding mail-in ballots that are still trickling in.

In Fulton County, where some voters stood in lines for up to three hours, in some cases because of an inadequate number of voting machines, WSB Channel 2 reported that 700 machines sat in a warehouse because they were sequestered as part of a pending lawsuit.

In Dougherty County, which was hit hard when Hurricane Michael roared through southwest Georgia, thousands of mail-in ballots were delayed because county offices were shut down for three days and mail is reportedly being routed through Tallahassee. The Georgia Democratic Party had asked Gov. Nathan Deal (R) to extend the deadline for Dougherty County to received mail-in ballots, but got no response.

Normally, the deadline for counties to certify their results is the Monday after the election, but they will now have until Tuesday because of the Veterans Day federal holiday.

Candice Broce, spokeswoman for the secretary of state’s office, said via email Wednesday: “The election results are not official until each county certifies its own results, sends those totals to the Secretary of State’s office, and the Secretary of State’s office certifies that the combined vote totals are accurate. Counties must certify their election results by 5 PM on or before Tuesday, November 13. The Secretary of State’s office must certify the election results on or before Monday, November 20.”

Under Georgia law, recounts can be initiated if the margin between the candidates is less than 1 percent.

Groh-Wargo criticized Kemp, who resisted calls to step aside as secretary of state while running for governor, for doing a poor job of helping counties address such problems. Abrams had also blasted Kemp throughout the campaign for pushing policies — some of which were halted by the courts in the past two weeks — that made it harder for people to vote. She’d called him the “architect of voter suppression.”

In the wee hours of Wednesday, when his lead was closer to 51 percent, Kemp told supporters at his election night party that the “math is on our side” and that he expected to win. Kemp’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment later Wednesday.

Abrams, addressing her supporters around 1:30 a.m., did not concede but signaled that she expected the race to go to a runoff. To those voters who didn’t support her or didn’t vote at all, she said, “You’re going to have a chance to do a do-over.”

Sonam Vashi in Georgia contributed to this story.

Midterm election updates: Reaction and results

Democrats took the House, Republicans held the Senate, and key races around the country were still too close to call.

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