ATLANTA (AP) — Stacey Abrams got immediate accolades and attention nationally as Georgia Democrats nominated her for the state’s top job, but any focus on her chances becoming the nation’s first black female governor first has to wait for her Republican opponent who won’t be settled for another two months.
With votes still being tallied, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp largely skipped the celebrations and pivoted directly to talk of a runoff contest that will decide who faces Abrams in November.
At his Athens watch party, Kemp told supporters, “I want to thank you all, our thousands of supporters around the state, for helping us punch our ticket to the runoff.”
At a gathering in Gainesville, Cagle told the crowd: “It’s great to come in first place. We’ve got a lot more to be done.”
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“We are right where we need to be in terms of this runoff,” Cagle said.
Abrams secured the Democratic nomination, becoming the first woman to do so. She will face the winner of the July 24 GOP runoff.
Abrams beat former state Rep. Stacey Evans in a race featuring two former legislative colleagues tussling over ethics accusations and their respective records on education.
Abrams campaign was plagued by allegations of ethics violations, including that she reimbursed herself money from campaign accounts without record and that she used campaign resources to promote book sales from which she personally profited. She has denied the allegations.
Abrams got a last-minute boost with an endorsement — in the form of a 60-second robo-call — from Hillary Clinton.
In the Republican race, Cagle and Kemp beat three GOP rivals in a race characterized by strong support for gun rights and tough talk on immigration.
The field was all white men: former legislators, officeholders and businessmen, some with decades of political experience and others positioning themselves as outsiders challenging the establishment.
Cagle garnered national headlines in February when he threatened to kill a tax break benefiting Delta Air Lines, one of Georgia’s largest employers, for ending a discount program for members of the National Rifle Association.
Kemp garnered strong criticism — and national headlines — with a series of campaign ads including one where he says he has a big truck, “Just in case I need to round up criminal illegals and take ’em home myself.”
In the ballroom of a downtown Atlanta hotel, Abrams thanked supporters and outlined her vision for the future.
She drew loud and sustained applause when she told the crowd, “We can repeal campus carry and we can expand HOPE,” referring to a law that allows guns to be brought onto college campuses and a popular scholarship program.
Abrams said: “We are writing the next chapter of Georgia’s future, where no one is unseen, no one is unheard and no one is uninspired.”
The candidates are vying to succeed term-limited Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, who has held the office since 2011.
Associated Press writers Kate Brumback in Atlanta, Jeff Martin in Athens, Jonathan Landrum in Gainesville and Alex Sanz in Johns Creek contributed to this report.