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The Choice Is Stark In Georgia's Gubernatorial Race


The governor's race in Georgia has been one of the most watched this election season. Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams is a voting rights activist and stands to become the first black woman governor in the country. Republican candidate Brian Kemp is staunchly conservative. He's secretary of state, which means he's also in charge of running the election he's taking part in. With a libertarian candidate in the mix, there's a good chance that Abrams and Kemp are headed to a runoff. Now, to get a sense of the mood in Georgia today, we've got DuBose Porter on the line. He's head of the Georgia Democratic Party. Welcome to the program.

DUBOSE PORTER: Great to be with you.

CORNISH: So we've been hearing about reports of long lines in Georgia, also some temporary mechanical problems with voting systems. What are you hearing?

PORTER: Well, we're - are having an historic turnout. And because of the old machines that Brian Kemp, the current secretary of state, has not done a great (laughter) job with, there have been some problems. But we're fixing those. And where there have been problems, we have actually gotten court orders to extend some times at the areas where there were the major problems. So we're OK. We're good. We're still encouraging people to get out and vote. Stay in line. We have a voter protection hotline that has been busy all day long with handling those type of issues. But we feel very good about where we are.


PORTER: I'll be glad...

CORNISH: Go ahead - (laughter) you mentioned the court order. And I want to jump in here and talk about this idea of a potential runoff, which would happen if no candidate was able to get the majority of the vote today. Obviously, your party has called for Brian Kemp to step down from his role as secretary of state. He's refused to do that. If there was a runoff scenario, are you prepared to take some kind of legal action in response?

PORTER: No, we're going to turn out the vote tonight at such a level we're not going to have a runoff. We're just confident in that. We are canvassing neighborhoods right now. We have people who are going out to help those who are in line to vote, to support them. And we have - it's amazing. We have celebrities, artists, singers in Atlanta who have volunteered to go out and help people and entertain them and be with them while they're in line to encourage them to stay and vote. Vote, vote, vote - that's our message. And we are not thinking beyond that because we are going to do everything to win tonight.

CORNISH: Have you had to expend any last-minute resources on reassuring voters, especially after Secretary Kemp made the allegation that there was some kind of attempt to hack the state's voter registration system? He offered no evidence to support these allegations, and you've called them false. But have you had to spend any time or money making sure voters believe you?

PORTER: That - they are false. And we have been out front calling him out on the issue because it is an outright lie. And I think he's been exposed for it. I think the Atlanta Journal today has a cartoon with him as a clown, which is (inaudible) exactly (inaudible) this. What we have (inaudible) is alive. Move forward and (inaudible) put our (inaudible) on getting the (inaudible) out. We are so (inaudible) about (inaudible) Abrams leading our ticket. She is charismatic. She is smart. She'll make a great governor. And that is where all of our efforts have been for the last - well, the last several months, but certainly the last several days and certainly today.

CORNISH: She also beat out a more moderate candidate in the primaries. And you've had two big races in Georgia this year. A few months back, there was also a Democratic hopeful, Jon Ossoff, who failed to win Tom Price's old House seat. What have you learned about, like, what actually gets Democrats to turn out on the off-election years?

PORTER: Well, remember, Ossoff's race turned a 35-65 district because of reapportionment into a 48-52 result. I mean, that's the kind of turnout we have. We starting off from the Hillary-Trump race to 48-52. So we feel like we're going to bridge that gap and go beyond it today.

CORNISH: And the idea that Southern Democrats need to be moderate to win, are you rethinking that strategy?

PORTER: It's about issues. People want someone like (inaudible) Abrams, who's going to be about education, health care and fixing problems. She's just the better candidate.

CORNISH: DuBose Porter is chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia. Thank you for speaking with us.

PORTER: Always good to be with you. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.