Kemp, who stepped down as Georgia secretary of state last week—after he administered the most important parts of his own election—cast Abrams’s speech as a full concession, and beseeched her and Georgians to turn the page.“Moments ago, Stacey Abrams conceded the race and officially ended her campaign for governor,” his campaign said in a statement. “I appreciate her passion, hard work, and commitment to public service. The election is over and hardworking 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.”
That outcome doesn’t seem likely. In her news conference, Abrams announced that she’d be initiating a “major federal lawsuit” against alleged mismanagement of the election under Kemp, through an initiative called “Fair Fight Georgia,” which she said will push for major changes to election law in the state.
Read: The Democrats’ Deep-South strategy was a winner after all
The existing allegations against Kemp and his old office are manifold. Kemp was the architect of a massive voter-purge campaign and an “exact match” policy requiring registrations to be identical to personal identifications, which moved more than 50,000 registrations—90 percent of them belonging to minorities—to “pending” status before a federal court enjoined it. There were long lines on Election Day, several precincts that were underprepared or featured near-comic mishaps with voting machines, and huge spikes in the number of provisional ballots some precincts offered to voters, especially students.
Abrams also announced that she’ll support the Democrat John Barrow in his runoff against the Republican state Representative Brad Raffensperger in the election to succeed Kemp as secretary of state.
Instead of ending “the divisive politics of the past,” as Kemp hopes to do, this all seems to place Abrams and Kemp in similar roles relative to each other as the ones they’ve played in the past few years, but with even higher stakes.
While in the state House, Abrams came to national prominence as the leader of the New Georgia Project, an unprecedented big-money campaign to register more than 100,000 new voters in the state. That initiative, which raised millions of dollars and did add thousands of new mostly black and Hispanic voters to the electorate, was a major part of a concerted new strategy to improve Democratic chances in the South by expanding the electorate. For the majority of Abrams’s time leading the project, it was also engaged in a war against Kemp’s office. Kemp launched a voter-fraud investigation against the New Georgia Project in 2014, and the New Georgia Project successfully sued the secretary of state’s office over purges. In turn, Kemp blames the New Georgia Project’s voter-registration drive for the discrepancies leading to the “exact match” fiasco.