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Campaign Manager For Stacey Abrams Discusses Challenge In Georgia Gubernatorial Race


In Georgia, the governor's mansion cuts an imposing facade - red brick, white columns, big lawn out front and a big question mark over who will occupy it next year. Georgia is one of several states where voters still aren't clear on who won key races.


Republican Brian Kemp is declaring victory in the governor's race. He's named a transition team, and he's accepted congratulations from fellow Republicans. But his opponent, Democrat Stacey Abrams, is not conceding.

KELLY: No. Her lawyers say they are exploring every option. Abrams' campaign team hosted a press conference today featuring voters and would-be voters who say they have had all kinds of problems casting ballots. Well, let's bring in the head of the Abrams campaign from campaign headquarters, Lauren Groh-Wargo, who is campaign manager. Welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

LAUREN GROH-WARGO: Thank you so much, Mary Louise.

KELLY: So this is going to come down to some basic math, right? Republican Brian Kemp says he has a more than 60,000 vote lead over you. Do you dispute that number?

GROH-WARGO: We do not.

KELLY: He also says even if all of them came in for your side, for Stacey Abrams, that it wouldn't be enough to force a runoff. Do you dispute that?

GROH-WARGO: What we know in this race is that there is a margin of victory that's been reported but that we have runoff laws here in Georgia. The only way that Brian Kemp can have an outright win here is if he gets to 50 percent plus one. And so when you look at the reported 60,000 margin, there's actually only a 26,000 margin to put this race into a runoff.

KELLY: But again, without getting too into the weeds with the numbers here, I'll quote you Cody Hall, the Kemp campaign press secretary, who says, it is mathematically impossible for Stacey Abrams to win or to force a runoff election here, that the margin is just not there.

GROH-WARGO: The Kemp campaign has operated as though the secretary of state's taxpayer-funded office is an arm of the campaign. And they have put out paper press releases, and their consultants have gone on the record to declare victory. We have uncovered thousands of provisional ballots in every single county that need to be counted. And so we dispute that any number put out by the Kemp campaign or the secretary of state's office is credible. It is not credible to say that there are no additional votes to be counted. That would put this race into a runoff or a recount.

KELLY: Let me dig in - I want to dig in on a couple of things you just said. But just to be clear before we move on, what do you believe is the accurate number of total uncounted ballots that might be out there?

GROH-WARGO: We do not know the answer to the question, and that is why the integrity of this election is at stake. There is active litigation happening in several counties in the state and likely more litigation that we are going to file in partnership with other entities this afternoon around uncounted absentee ballots in metro Atlanta.

KELLY: To quote another spokesperson from the Kemp campaign, Ryan Mahoney, he had this to say. Direct quote - "Abrams is desperately trying to steal this election in the courtroom." I put that to you, the implication being they say you don't have the votes, so you're going to wheel out the lawyers.

GROH-WARGO: If Kemp would like to be a legitimate governor, he should be joining us in our call to count every vote. Democrats, Republicans, independents, Georgians are worried about the basic integrity of our election system, and it is a basic matter of fairness that we count every vote.

KELLY: So what are the stakes here as you see them?

GROH-WARGO: I think they are multipronged. First, there's a big question on whether or not this race should go to a runoff. Second, we are hearing an outpouring. Thousands of voters are calling our voter protection hotline and emailing us asking how they can make sure their vote is counted. Our campaign implored Georgians to trust the system and vote, and there were big doubts about that. And we push people and said, trust the system.

Now we are seeing unbelievable irregularities, tens of thousands of voters' votes who have not been counted. And so as we move forward, we are committed to ensuring that we pursue every avenue possible so that as we think about future elections, that there is an outcome where people feel that this one was counted and handled fairly and they can have confidence moving forward.

KELLY: Just to pin you - try to pin you down one more time on the numbers, you just referenced tens of thousands of voters who votes have not been counted. Do you have evidence of that? I know you've cited long lines and irregularities and problems with some of the counties in the south that were disrupted by the hurricane. But tens of thousands of votes not counted - you're confident of that.

GROH-WARGO: The secretary of state's office said at least 22,000 provisional ballots were cast. Since they put that number out, we have discovered in multiple counties that they had thousands in addition to the number they reported to the secretary of state. So yes, we believe there are untold tens of thousands of uncounted ballots.

KELLY: Ms. Groh-Wargo, thanks very much.

GROH-WARGO: Thank you.

KELLY: Lauren Groh-Wargo is campaign manager for Stacey Abrams, Democratic candidate in the, as you just heard, not-over-yet race for governor of Georgia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.