Former Lt. Gov. Karen Handel elected not to wait for a state-mandated recount or even to see how the military vote shook out. Instead, she conceded Georgia’s GOP gubernatorial run-off to former Rep. Nathan Deal Wednesday morning.
Deal, who resigned his House seat this past spring to run for the Governorship, will face former Democratic Governor Roy Barnes in November.
After all precincts finished reporting in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, Deal led Handel by less than 2,500 votes out of about 580,000 votes cast. That margin – 0.4% – was close enough for the state to order a recount. Military votes were also still outstanding.
But Handel opted not to wait for those results, let alone a recount. She issued the following concession statement, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution:
“I want to thank all of my friends, supporters, volunteers and my campaign team for a tremendous effort over the last 16 months. We ran a terrific campaign, beat the odds to come in first place in the Primary, and came so very close in the runoff election.
“As of this morning, we are four tenths of a percentage point behind Nathan Deal with absentee ballots and overseas military votes yet to be counted.
“We certainly have the option of requesting the automatic statewide recount. But we are not going to do that.
“The best thing for our party is to rally around Congressman Deal as our nominee in the fight against Roy Barnes. Barnes would return Georgia to a past that is best kept in our rearview mirror. We must marshal all of our resources to defeat him.
“I spoke with Nathan this morning and let him know that I endorse his candidacy and look forward to the fight against Barnes. I have also called on all who were supporting me to give their same commitment and energy to Nathan.
I thank the people of Georgia for the opportunity to serve them and for allowing me to interview for the job of Governor. This was an amazing journey, and the friendships that Steve and I made enriched our lives immeasurably. I look forward to finding a way to serve this great state in the future.”
Deal’s victory may turn out to be a blessing for Democrats. He’s given suggestions that he’s at least birther-curious, and he has other ethical issues. But this is Georgia. Outside of Atlanta, it has always been very conservative, and it has therefore trended strongly Republican in recent elections. While Barnes is well-known statewide, he also was ousted from the governor’s mansion by Sonny Perdue in 2002, and it’s not often that politicians who lose re-election win their office back.
The Talking Points Memo Poll Average has Deal leading Barnes 44.8%-41.3%.