• MINUTE-BY-MINUTE: Kemp campaign declares victory; Abrams not giving up

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    ATLANTA - Georgia voters turned out to decide a number of key races on the ballot, including the heated showdown for governor between Democrat Stacey Abrams, Republican Brian Kemp and Libertarian Ted Metz.

    As of Wednesday 4:45 p.m., the Kemp campaign declared victory, saying it's impossible for Abrams to find the votes to force a runoff. Channel 2 Action News is waiting on the response from the Abrams campaign.

    Kemp maintained a narrow lead over Abrams early Wednesday as the last election results trickled in for Georgia’s nationally-watched race for governor.

    Kemp expressed confidence that his slim edge over Abrams was insurmountable, and his allies urged him to declare victory. But Abrams said she would not concede the race until more ballots were counted, and her campaign released an early morning memo outlining a narrow path to a runoff.

    “We will continue to work hard until the very end. We will fight for every vote, just like I will fight for you as governor,” she said early Wednesday. “And that means keeping our eyes on the process to ensure that this election is conducted fairly.”

    She told supporters to prepare for a runoff, which is required if neither candidate gets the majority-vote margin they need to win the race outright. There’s never been a fall gubernatorial runoff in Georgia history, but Libertarian Ted Metz’s 1 percent take contributed to the possibility.

    The race got considerably closer overnight, as Kemp’s lead of more than 100,000 shrunk to roughly 70,000. With nearly all precincts reporting, Abrams’ campaign held out hope that a few troves of absentee ballots and an unknown number of provisional ballots would narrow his edge.

    Kemp didn’t issue any public statements Wednesday about the tightening margin of the race, but he earlier said his “very strong lead” would hold up. “The math is on our side,” he added.

    It could be days before the final election results are certified. And legal teams on both sides were gearing up for challenges.

    A Dec. 4 runoff would bring even more national attention to the clash between Kemp and Abrams, who is competing to be the nation’s first black female governor. And it would ensure the most expensive gubernatorial election in state history gets even pricier.

    Below are minute-by-minute updates:

    MINUTE-BY-MINUTE:

    4:45 p.m.: The Kemp campaign declares victory.

    3:47 p.m.: The Abrams campaign announces the launch of an "aggressive provisional ballot chase program to ensure that every eligible voter’s voice is heard and every ballot is counted."

    10:30 a.m.: Channel 2's Richard Elliot was on a press phone call with Stacey Abrams' election team where they spoke about the election. They are hoping for a runoff. 

    9:20 a.m. Kemp has 50.4% of the vote. Abrams has 48.66% of the vote.

    7 a.m.: Abrams is 19,090 votes from a runoff.  

    4 a.m.: Channel 2 Action News This Morning begins with Channel 2's Darryn Moore covering Brian Kemp and Channel 2's Steve Gehlbach covering Stacey Abrams.

    2:45 a.m.: "There are votes left to count, but we have a very strong lead. We are waiting on the final results, but I am confident that victory is near," Kemp said. 

    2:40 a.m.: Brian Kemp says he's confident victory is near, but he's waiting on the final results.

    2:02 a.m.: Brian Kemp addresses his supporters:

    1:45 a.m.: Stacey Abrams implies a runoff is likely. She says voters will get a "do-over."

    1:40 a.m.: Stacey Abrams addresses supporters:

    1:14 a.m.: Stacey Abrams' campaign manager said Abrams will come out to address her supporters in the next 20 minutes. 

    1:04 a.m.: More Fulton County precincts are coming in: 

    12:47 p.m.: Kemp maintains just over 51% of the vote with 94% of precincts reporting.

    12:23 p.m.: With 92% of the vote in, Kemp maintains lead.

    12:14 p.m.: With 91% of the vote in, the margin between Kemp and Abrams had narrowed even more: 

    11:55 p.m.: With 89% reporting, the race between Kemp and Abrams has narrowed.

    11:48 p.m.: Kemp maintains lead with 53%

    11:46 p.m.: About 86% of the vote for Governor is now in:

    11:27 p.m.: With 83% of the vote in, Kemp keeps his lead:

    11:24 p.m.: More of the vote has come in from Cobb County:

    11:16 p.m.: With 79% of the vote in, Kemps lead narrows a bit over Abrams:

    11:01 p.m.: DeKalb numbers have started coming in:

    10:53 p.m.: Still 0% of districts reporting in Cobb and DeKalb counties:

    10:35 p.m.: Channel 2's Dave Huddleston tweets photo of Brian Kemp watching election results come in:

    10:24 p.m.: With 65% of the vote in, Kemp hold lead with 55%

    10:20 p.m.: Brian Kemp poised to get more of the vote than Gov. Deal:

    10:06 p.m.: With 57% reporting, Kemp maintains lead with 55%

    9:48 p.m.: First Lady Sandra Deal spoke at Kemp campaign headquarters:

    9:46 p.m.: With about 51% reporting, Kemp maintains lead:

    9:43 p.m.: Gov. Nathan Deal has arrived at Kemp campaign party:

    9:33 p.m.: with 40% reporting, Kemp's lead narrowing to just 11%

    9:24 p.m.: Kemp appears to have taken Banks County:

    9:09 p.m.: 28% reporting, Kemp keeps lead:

    9:06 p.m.: With 24% reporting, Kemp leads with 60% of the vote

    9 p.m.: Gwinnett early vote total is in. Abrams won big with the early vote:

    8:55 p.m.: With 19% reporting, Kemp currently hold 59% of the vote:

     

    8:47 p.m.: With 17% reporting, Kemp holds lead in governor's race:

    8:41 p.m.: with 14% reporting, Kemp maintains lead over Abrams:

    8:32 p.m.: Poll hours have been extended at 3 Fulton County polling locations:

    8:18 p.m.: Stacey Abrams has picked up another county: 

    8:16 p.m.: Room is starting to fill up at Kemp watch party in Athens:

    8:15p.m.: With 2% of the vote in, Kemp has an early lead in race for governor: 

    7:50 p.m.: Channel 2's Dave Huddleston reports the Kemp party expected to start soon:

    7:42 p.m.: With 5% of vote in Henry County is currently leaning toward Kemp:

    7:37 p.m.: Currently, Twiggs County is going for Abrams

    7:36 p.m.: Three rural Georgia counties are currently going for Kemp:

    7:33 p.m.: Richard Elliot says long lines of people are waiting to get into the Stacey Abrams watch party:

    7:31 p.m.: The first election results have started to come in for teh Georgia's governor's race. 

    7 p.m.: Polls closed at most polling locations across state. Some extended due to issues earlier in the day


    EARLIER IN THE DAY:

    Channel 2’s Dave Huddleston spent the day with the Kemp campaign. Kemp told Huddleston that he feels good as the campaign comes to a close.

    Kemp, with his family on hand, voted Tuesday afternoon in his home polling location in Winterville, just outside of Athens.

    [PHOTOS: Georgia voters pack polls for highly-anticipated midterm elections]

    He said the campaign took him to every county in the state and he got a sense the people of Georgia like what he called his common sense approach to less government and conservative values.

    Kemp also had some voting issues. When he tried to vote, his voter card said "invalid." He had to go back and get another card.

    Despite all the calls of voter irregularities and problems, Huddleston asked Kemp if he thinks he should have resigned as secretary of state to run for governor.


    ELECTION 2018 COVERAGE:


    "No not at all. We've been fighting the whole time, we've stayed on the offense, we've been moving ahead and you can't dwell on things in politics, we just grind it out every day whether it was a good day or a bad day,” Kemp said.

    Kemp supporters will gather in Athens once the polls close at 7 p.m.

    Abrams and her campaign will watch the results come in at a downtown Atlanta hotel.

    Channel 2 political reporter Richard Elliot spent the day with Abrams campaign. She started in Buena Vista, then went to Columbus and then worked her way back into metro Atlanta.

    [Long lines, voting issues reported at polling places across metro Atlanta]

    Tuesday afternoon Abrams campaigned at the popular Busy Bee restaurant in southwest Atlanta.
    She was there with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who ran for president in 1988.

    Abrams said she knows there are long lines at polling places, but she is imploring her supporters to stay in those lines and vote

    “We’ve had a little bit of trouble. We know we had some trouble at polling places, but I need folks to know that they need to stay in line. Do not let trouble push you out of line. As long as you are in line when the polls close at 7 p.m., you can cast your vote and we need your support,” Abrams told Elliot. 

    Abrams was one of nearly 2.1 million Georgians to cast their vote early.

    If neither candidate gets the majority of votes, a runoff election is set for Dec. 4.

    A lot depends on the performance of Libertarian candidate Metz.

    If the vote margin between Kemp and Abrams is close enough, even a small percentage of votes for Metz could force the two major party contenders into a runoff. 

    Metz, 60, is a retired insurance agent and financial planner whose campaign largely has revolved around promoting industrial hemp.

    The Associated Press and Greg Bluestein with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution contributed to this article.

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