Nail-biter in Georgia: Kemp leads Abrams, but runoff a possibility

Republican Brian Kemp speaks at his election-watching party. AJC/Hyosub Shin

Republican Brian Kemp speaks at his election-watching party. AJC/Hyosub Shin

Republican Brian Kemp clung to a slim lead over Stacey Abrams early Wednesday as final election returns trickled in, but the Democrat said she would not concede the race until more absentee ballots were counted.

Predicting a Dec. 4 runoff matchup with Kemp, she told voters to prepare for a “do-over” as her campaign pointed to tens of thousands of absentee ballots still out in metro Atlanta counties.

“And I need you to know that it is my mission to serve you, to serve Georgia, to make you proud,” she said. “And for those who didn’t pick me the first time, to change your mind about me and what we can accomplish together.”

Kemp’s supporters, meanwhile, said there was no way for Abrams to force the race into overtime. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, a former Georgia governor, said it was “mathematically impossible” for Abrams to win. And Kemp said he was “confident” victory was near.

“There are votes left to be counted, but we have a very strong lead,” he said. “And folks, make no mistake: The math is on our side to win this election.”

Overnight, the race considerably tightened. By 6 a.m., Kemp's lead was down to 70,000 votes - but nearly all precincts had reported. Abrams' campaign held out hope that absentee ballots in Gwinnett and provisional ballots could narrow his edge.

If neither candidate gets the majority-vote margin they need to win the election outright, that would mean the nation’s political spotlight would shift firmly to Georgia over the next month – and the most expensive gubernatorial election in state history gets even pricier.

Other contests tightened overnight. Democrat Lucy McBath took a slim lead over Republican U.S. Rep. Karen Handel in Georgia’s 6th District, while U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall carved out a narrow lead over Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux.

Two other statewide races appeared destined for a runoff: The secretary of state matchup between Republican Brad Raffensperger and Democrat John Barrow, and a Public Service Commission contest between incumbent Chuck Eaton and Democrat Lindy Miller.


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2:50 a.m. Kemp didn't outright declare victory during a short speech to a crowd of hundreds of supporters Wednesday morning, but he came close.

Declaring he was “confident” that victory is near, he told the crowd his lead was insurmountable.

"There are votes left to be counted, but we have a very strong lead," he said. "And folks, make no mistake: the math is on our side to win this election."

With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Kemp has a lead of about 95,000 votes over Abrams. But her campaign said tens of thousands of absentee ballots from metro Atlanta still need to be counted.

"If I wasn’t your choice or if you made no choice at all: You’re going to have a chance to do a do over,” said Abrams, predicting a Dec. 4 runoff.

1:55 a.m. Georgia's 7th District congressional race looks like it'll come down to absentee ballots.

About 14,000 of them have yet to be counted, Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux’s Campaign Manager Spencer Smith told our colleague Amanda Coyne.

He hoped the margin of error would be narrow enough to trigger a recount, and said the campaign would “fight like hell” and “aggressively” pursue legal options to ensure each vote was counted.

Earlier in the evening, NBC News and the Cook Political Report had declared Bourdeaux victorious against incumbent Republican Rob Woodall, calls they later retracted.

Woodall now narrowly leads Bourdeaux by a few thousand votes.

1:45 a.m. Stacey Abrams told supporters early Wednesday that she won't concede.

"We are going to make sure that every vote is counted,” she said.

She also indicated she was preparing for the possibility of a Dec. 4 runoff, despite returns showing Kemp with a narrow lead.

"If I wasn’t your choice or if you made no choice at all: You’re going to have a chance to do a do over. And I need you to know that it is my mission to serve you, to serve Georgia, to make you proud. And for those who didn’t pick me the first time, to change your mind about me and what we can accomplish together,” she said.

1:40 a.m. There were roughly 284,000 mail-in ballots cast statewide, including about 110,000 in DeKalb, Cobb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties. It's unclear how many have been counted, but Lauren Groh-Wargo, Abrams campaign manager said tens of thousands were from her supporters.

1:25 a.m. It looks like the Karen Handel-Lucy McBath congressional fight will stretch into another day. Both candidates left their respective election watch parties in agreement that the 6th District race was too close to call tonight.

1:15 a.m. No concession yet in the governor's race: Abrams campaign manager Lauren Groh-Wargo said there's still tens of thousands outstanding absentee ballots around the state, including about 20,000 in Gwinnett and 25,000 in Cobb. Many of them, she said, are believed to be Abrams votes.

“We believe this is headed for a runoff," she said.

Although Abrams is expected to address the crowd soon, Groh-Wargo said there likely won’t be any definitive answers on the race until Wednesday.

“We will fight for every vote,” she added.

1:00 a.m. Some Kemp boosters are ready to declare the gubernatorial race over:

12:40 a.m.: There's a bit of confusion in the 7th District congressional race, where four-term Congressman Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville, is hoping to hang on against Democratic challenger Carolyn Bourdeaux.

After the Cook Political Report and NBC called the race in favor of Bourdeaux, the Democrat’s campaign refrained from declaring victory. It said it’s waiting for early votes to be counted in Forsyth County. Ditto for absentee ballots in Forsyth and Gwinnett.

If Bourdeaux wins, it’ll be the first big upset of the night. Stay tuned.

12:25 a.m. Henry County voters opted against taking a piece of Stockbridge to create the new city of Eagle's Landing.

The proposal would have created Henry County’s fifth city, de-annexing about half of Stockbridge in the process. Residents voted against both the de-annexation and the creation of the new city.

The move was controversial, with Stockbridge leaders trying to stop the referendum in court. Judges ruled against Stockbridge twice. -Maya T. Prabhu

12:20 a.m. Every metro Atlanta community that held a referendum Tuesday on allowing earlier Sunday alcohol sales appeared to approve the measure.

Senate Bill 17 — the so-called “Brunch Bill” or “Mimosa Mandate” — passed through Georgia’s legislature earlier this year, giving local governments the opportunity to call referendums on allowing Sunday drink sales to start at 11 a.m. rather than 12:30 p.m.

A total of 87 counties and cities across Georgia added such referendums to Tuesday's ballots, according to the Secretary of State's Office. About 30 of those communities were in the immediate metro Atlanta area. Incomplete returns suggested referendums held in Cobb, DeKalb, Forsyth and Gwinnett were likely to pass by significant margins. City of Atlanta voters also appeared to approve the measure. -Maya T. Prabhu

Midnight: Kemp's lead over Abrams tightened considerably as a trove of metro Atlanta votes narrowed his margin to roughly 100,000 votes.

With about 89 percent of votes to be counted, Abrams hopes overwhelming margins in the Atlanta suburbs can put her over the top.

The news gave the crowd at Abrams' watch party a jolt of enthusiasm. A staffer announced that early vote results from DeKalb County cut her deficit in half.

The speaker said there are many votes to be counted, and it could push the race into a runoff.

The crowd responded with cheers and chanting Abrams’ name. Then the Abrams remix of “Win” by rapper Jay Rock played over the sound system.

11:55 p.m. Republicans appeared poised to take back two Athens-area state House seats that flipped to Democrats during special elections last year.

State Reps. Deborah Gonzalez and Jonathan Wallace both were trailing in returns shortly before midnight. Republican Marcus Wiedower of Watkinsville was leading Wallace with 75 percent of the precincts counted. Gonzalez was trailing Republican Houston Gaines with half of the results tallied.Both districts had previously been held by Republicans. -Maya T. Prabhu

11:45 p.m. The 7th District congressional race is still too close to call, which isn't what U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville, wanted to hear going into the evening.

From our colleague Marlon Walker, who’s been with Woodall and his supporters in Buford:

Woodall Campaign Manager Derick Corbett said he was not counting his candidate out, mentioning votes from Gwinnett County that had not been counted.

“It’s going to be close,” he told people standing around him.

Fox News was playing on a projector in the front of a restaurant and a flatscreen in the back. Few of the 25 left by the end of the night were watching.

“I know one thing,” Woodall said, “I’ve got two more months, regardless of what happens tonight.”

11:40 p.m. In down-ballot statewide races, most other Republicans were thriving. Geoff Duncan carved out a nine-point lead over Sarah Riggs Amico in the lieutenant governor's race, and Attorney General Chris Carr and Agriculture Secretary Gary Black appeared poised for victory.

The closest race was the contest between Republican Brad Raffensperger and Democrat John Barrow for secretary of state. The Libertarian, Smythe Duval, netted about 2 percent, which could force the race into a runoff if Barrow's support grows.

11:30 p.m. The governor's race has yet to be called since swaths of the state's most populous counties haven't fully reported their results. But things are still looking very good for Kemp and down-ballot Republicans.

Kemp has a 250,000-vote advantage over Stacey Abrams, even after the Democrat-heavy DeKalb reported many of its results. And outstanding precincts include much of Forsyth, Paulding and Walton - territory where Republicans are dominant.

11:05 p.m. Most of Georgia's House incumbents will be heading back to Washington next January.

The AP has called all but two of the state’s congressional races. The exceptions are Republicans Karen Handel and Rob Woodall, whose 6th and 7th District races in the north Atlanta suburbs are still too close to call.

Check out our colleagues' dispatches from the 6th and 7th District watch parties.

10:40 p.m. Brian Kemp passed a rare threshold relatively early in the night that points to the surge in turnout. With one-third of precincts still to be reported, he passed Gov. Nathan Deal's 2014 vote total.

And there's still troves of votes, including deeply-conservative north Georgia counties that haven't come in yet.

Democrats are also counting on the raft of precincts in metro Atlanta where Stacey Abrams won big early-vote margins.

10:30 p.m. The numbers in the gubernatorial race appear to be trending away from Stacey Abrams, with more than 60 percent of precincts reporting.

Which makes the language used by U.S. Rep. John Lewis in a speech at Abrams’ watch party all the more notable. Per our colleague Tia Mitchell, the Atlanta Democrat urged the crowd not to give up hope:

“Don’t get lost in a sea of despair,” he said. “Keep the faith. We can win, and we must win. Be hopeful. Be optimistic. It’s a lot of votes out there.”

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms also seemed to be prepping the crowd in case Abrams did not win. Bottoms noted the historic nature of the campaign and said tonight is just the beginning.

“You all have had the nation looking at us, and they see that we care, and they see that we recognize the power that is in our hands,” Bottoms said. “Continue to own that power.”

9:45 p.m. It's still early, but U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall is trailing his Democratic opponent Carolyn Bourdeaux in initial returns from the Gwinnett and Forsyth-based 7th District.

We've been hearing from Republicans all week who have been privately fretting about the four-term Lawrenceville Republican, who eschewed many of the fixtures of modern congressional campaigns. He rarely used social media, had trouble keeping up with Bourdeaux's fundraising and only began advertising on television less than a week ago.

At his watch party in Buford, Woodall told our colleague Marlon Walker that he “trust(s) the American voter.”

“We have elections every two years. Sometimes folks win, sometimes folks lose. But it’s having that choice that makes the government work,” he said. “This year, we had very distinct paths that folks were able to choose between.”

Bourdeaux appeared cautiously optimistic as she mingled with supporters at her Norcross watch party.

“It’s going to be a long night, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be a bad night,” Bourdeaux said.

9:35 p.m. One of Georgia's most colorful congressional races has come to a close. The AP called the 14th District race in favor incumbent Republican Tom Graves.

That outcome was never really in doubt, but Graves was challenged by one of the most fascinating candidates in recent memory. Democrat Steve Foster, a onetime physician and owner of a clothing-optional retreatran his campaign from jail over the last few months after he was convicted for driving under the influence.

Two of Graves’ GOP colleagues, Rick Allen of Evans and Doug Collins of Gainesville, have also secured reelection, according to the AP.

9:15 p.m. The excitement at Abrams' Atlanta watch party is starting to build.

Jennifer and Jason Pettie, who live in Atlanta’s Grant Park neighborhood, waited in line for the overflow room for Abrams’ watch party. “For me, I wanted to be on the scene,” Jennifer Pettie said. “Feel the energy that’s around the election. And be around like-minded people.”

Jason Pettie said he didn’t want to miss the chance to see Abrams become the nation’s first African-American female governor.

"The entire Abrams campaign has been a movement," he said. "So, by being here we're not just a part of Georgia's history. This is American history." -Tia Mitchell

9:05 p.m. We knew turnout would be high for today's race, but consider this:

Gov. Nathan Deal won reelection in 2014 with roughly 1.3 million votes.

So far tonight, the gubernatorial candidates have cumulatively garnered about 900,000 votes. And that’s with less than one-fifth of precincts reporting.

Put another way, the loser of tonight’s race looks sure to garner as many votes as Deal did four years ago.

8:45 p.m. U.S. Rep. Karen Handel made a quick spin through her election night watch party at Le Méridien Atlanta Perimeter shortly after most polls had closed to thank supporters.

She took the microphone for a moment saying it was “early, early, early,” as polls had just closed, but she is feeling optimistic.

Karen Robinson of Johns Creek made the trek to Handel's Perimeter area event and was thrilled at what she saw: lots of young people. She’s also been cheered by reports of robust turnout. "I'm thrilled to see the enthusiasm, whatever way it goes," she said. Economy, security and limited government are her key topics.

Anne Jarrello of Roswell counted education, security, immigration and the budget among her key topics."She has held the line on conservative values," she said of Handel. -Jennifer Brett

8:40 p.m. More than 80 people crammed into a small ballroom at the Westin hotel in the Perimeter area for Lucy McBath's 6th Congressional District watch party. Shortly after 8 p.m. the crowd let out its first cheer of the night when the CNN screen at the front of the room showed an early lead in the Texas Senate race for Beto O'Rourke over Ted Cruz.

“We feel really good going into tonight,” said McBath spokesman Jake Orvis. He pointed to recent polls, including one by the New York Times, that had McBath edging out incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Karen Handel, as well as what they’ve heard knocking on doors and canvassing recently. “There’s an undeniable grassroots energy.”

Teresa Schank, a renal dietician in Marietta, spoke to a reporter as she waited for the party to begin. She said it was the first time she'd been to a political event. "It feels good," she said, smiling tentatively. She first heard about McBath from a friend of her daughter's who volunteered for McBath. "I feel her pain" as a woman who lost her son to gun violence, she said of her support for McBath. "What will the night's result be? "I don't know," Schank said. "I'm hoping for the best." -Ariel Hart

8:30 p.m. One reason Kemp's campaign has an early bounce in its step: He is outdoing President Donald Trump in the handful of conservative rural counties that have already come in.

Let’s start with Rabun County, which Trump carried with 79 percent. Kemp took it with 81 percent. Pierce County went 86 percent for Trump - and 90 percent for Kemp.

A caveat: The vote total in these counties and others are smaller than the 2016 share. And metro Atlanta and it’s troves of Abrams votes are only starting to trickle in. And she may significantly outdo Hillary Clinton in those vote-rich areas.

8 p.m. Early results are trickling in from mostly conservative-leaning counties, but one early trend seems to bode well for voters who don't want a monthlong runoff.

Libertarian Ted Metz is significantly underperforming other third-party candidates down the ticket. That fits with analysts who predicted that his numbers would be squeezed in such a polarizing race.

So far, that seems to be happening. Metz had less than half the vote total as other Libertarian candidates in lower-profile races.

One other interesting trend to watch: John Barrow is faring slightly better than Abrams and other Democrats in his race for secretary of state - possibly an indication that his centrist appeal is winning over some GOP votes.

7:45 p.m. At least two sitting Georgia congressmen have their tickets punched for another two years in Washington. Democrat John Lewis of Atlanta and Republican Austin Scott of Tifton are all set: neither faced competitors this year.

Ten others, including Atlanta-area lawmakers Barry Loudermilk, Hank Johnson and David Scott, are expected to be easily reelected.

We have colleagues camped out tonight at the watch parties for Georgia's two highest-profile House races involving U.S. Reps. Rob Woodall, Karen Handel and their Democratic opponents.

7:25 p.m. Doors have opened at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Atlanta, where Stacey Abrams will hold her Election Night watch party. Hundreds of people, many of them with Abrams signs, are waiting in line.

Meanwhile, at Spelman College, where Abrams earned her undergraduate degree, many students had one eye on giant television screens to watch election results and one eye on their laptops doing schoolwork.

Sophomore Taryn Gill had a book in her lap, cheering on classmates and faculty leaders as they spoke at a campus watch party.

“It doesn’t stop,” she said with a chuckle about her schoolwork. But Gill got serious and continued “but the fight doesn’t stop either.”

Gill, 19, voted for the first time Tuesday. She voted for Abrams in the governor’s race, but not because Abrams is a Spelmanite. Gill complained that Abrams’ opponent, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, attempted to disenfranchise voters in the final weeks of the campaign, describing it as “subvert racism.”

Gill said the possibility of Abrams becoming governor “gives me hope to see someone like me who looks like me.”

Spelman President Mary Schmidt Campbell asked students to pray for Abrams and commended the candidate and those who volunteered on her campaign.

"We worked some serious Black Girl Magic," Campbell said. -Tia Mitchell and Eric Stirgus

7:10 p.m. We're starting to see some early exits polls. One from CNN could mean good news for Georgia Democrats.

It found that nearly 80 percent of the country’s voters said it is very or somewhat important that more women are elected to public office. About half said it is very important.

A little less than 70 percent of voters polled said it is very or somewhat important for racial and ethnic minorities be elected to public office. -Maya T. Prabhu

7 p.m. Most polls are now closed in Georgia, and we won't see many results for at least an hour.

So it’s time for some idle speculation. We’ve been chatting with operatives and elected officials all day, and here’s the best sense we get:

Republicans are cautiously optimistic of an outright Kemp win, and skeptical of any chance of an Abrams victory. They’re buoyant at reports of presidential-level turnout in some deep-red bastions in north Georgia.

Democrats are also cautiously optimistic but nervous about voting problems in densely-populated suburban areas. Abrams’ supporters, too, believe she has a path to an outright win – but a more likely avenue to a runoff.

And everyone gives the same caveat: The huge turnout complicates any effort to give an informed prediction.

Earlier today, we posted a story about three broad possible scenarios. Our gut leans toward the middle one: A blue wave in the suburbs and a red wall in rural Georgia.

Voting hours have been extended in three Gwinnett precincts that experienced technical issues throughout the day.

6:40 p.m. Hillary Clinton urged Georgia voters facing long waits at the polls to stay in line so they can cast their ballots.

"Please stay in line, encourage those around you to do the same, and help bring this home for @StaceyAbrams," the former secretary of state and 2016 presidential candidate tweeted.

Her comments were soon echoed by Abrams. “All voters are entitled to make their voices heard at the ballot box,” her campaign said in a press release.

Our colleagues have reported hours-long lines in some precincts.

6:35 p.m. Awkward.

Channel 2 Action News’ Dave Huddleston was with Kemp when he cast his ballot in an Athens-Clarke County precinct when something strange happened.

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. 

"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.

6:30 p.m. A last-minute federal lawsuit is trying to disqualify Secretary of State Brian Kemp from overseeing his own race for governor.

The lawsuit, filed by a nonprofit group called Protect Democracy, seeks a temporary restraining order barring the Republican from being involved in vote counting, election certification or runoffs.

As secretary of state, Kemp is Georgia's chief election official, and he's also running for governor against Democrat Stacey Abrams.

"That no person should be a judge in their own case is about as basic a rule of fairness as you can get," said Larry Schwartztol, an attorney for Protect Democracy. "Kemp ... has misused his official position to try to tilt the playing field of the election in his favor."

As evidence, the lawsuit cites Kemp's decision Sunday to open an investigation of the Democratic Party of Georgia after an alleged hacking attempt of voter registration data. There's no public evidence suggesting the Democratic Party tried to hack the elections system.

LaTosha Brown of Black Voters Matter, Atlanta City Councilwoman Jennifer Ide and Chalis Montgomery, a former Democratic candidate for Congress, are among the plaintiffs. -Mark Niesse

5:30 p.m. A few bold-faced names are already in Athens at Kemp's campaign watching party in a large ballroom in the Classic Center.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is here with a few of his former top lieutenants – GOP chair John Watson and strategist Dan McLagan – and sounded optimistic about Kemp’s chances.

“I think it’ll be a good night. Georgia’s not ready to go back. It’s really interesting that this race is becoming nationalized. It amazes me because Stacey Abrams is a very articulate candidate – who articulates stances to the left of Bernie Sanders.”

So did U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, who predicted Republicans hold the U.S. Senate and win Georgia’s top offices.

“Something is going on. Turnout is just too good. The interest is just too intense,” he said. “That’s because people like the economy and they don’t want to turn it around.”

5:10 p.m. Statehouse candidate Matthew Wilson raised eyebrows on Tuesday for a now-deleted Facebook post that included pictures of him delivering pizza to voters in line at a Brookhaven precinct.

“We’re seeing record-breaking lines throughout #HD-80, including at Cross Keys High School, so we brought #pizzatothepolls,” Wilson wrote in the post. “Stay in line, y’all!”

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Several people commented that Wilson’s action was illegal. Georgia’s anti-electioneering law bars people from soliciting votes within 150 feet of a polling place.

Former Mayor Kasim Reed landed in hot water earlier this year for an Election Day video that might have violated the same law.

Wilson, a Democrat, is challenging state Rep. Meagan Hanson for her Brookhaven swing district.

4:40 p.m. Much has been written about Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams' strategy of driving up turnout among minority voters, but Andra Gillespie is keeping an eye on the other side of the coin. The Emory University professor, who focuses on African-American politics, says how Abrams performs among white voters will inform future Democratic nominating contests.

Jason Carter and Michelle Nunn, white Democrats who lost statewide bids for governor and U.S. Senate in 2014, ran as centrists and came from political dynasties. Carter garnered roughly 23 percent of the white vote, according to exit polls, and Nunn drew about the same. “Abrams comes in and doesn’t have a family name, she not white and she didn’t present herself as a moderate. If she can do that and actually outperform Carter and Nunn,” Gillespie said, it’ll strike at the heart of the “idea that African-American candidates are not viable, have more liabilities as statewide candidates than any (white) Democrat would be.”

The latest AJC poll had Abrams with a little more than 27 percent support among likely white voters.

4:10 p.m. Atlanta's well-educated and rapidly diversifying northern suburbs are being closely watched tonight for signs of Democrats' promised "blue wave."

Todd Rehm, a GOP operative who is working on a few Legislative races and one of the Public Service Commission contests, is keeping a close eye on two Gwinnett County precincts that he sees as bellwethers for the state.

The first is the Duluth-based state Senate district being vacated by Republican David Shafer, who lost his bid for lieutenant governor this summer. If Rehm's client, Republican candidate Matt Reeves, is coasting tonight it could mean GOP candidates will have an easy election night statewide and in metro Atlanta's two most competitive U.S. House Districts, he said.

“That is supposed to be about as close to a flip district as exists in the state Senate,” he said. “If we’re not getting either the gross numbers or the margins we need, then we’re going to be in for a long night. If those guys are sailing along, maybe Trump’s not as poisonous as people think he was in 2016.”

Rehm is also keeping an eye on state Sen. Renee Unterman’s Buford district.

Unterman is a “strong Republican in a strong Republican district in Gwinnett County, and if she’s up in the 60s (percent support) that’ll tell me that we as Republicans are pretty well on track.”

We’ve reached out to a few well-connected political operatives and independent observers for what they’re looking for tonight and will fold in their thoughts over the course of the afternoon.

2:45 p.m. You don't underwrite a political ad unless you've got something pressing to say, which is what makes Delta Air Lines' rare Election Day spot so intriguing.

The minute-long national ad, which airs today, features serene, birds-eye views of America paired with a message of unity and reconciliation.

“You hear about how we’re a nation divided, yet from where we sit, we see no such thing,” narrator Viola Davis states. “We see half-a-million people today alone stitching together some supposedly very divided states: red states, blue states and every shade of purple in between.”

Delta is of course a very politically connected company, particularly here in its home state. And the timing of the ad is notable, coming a week before the Georgia Legislature is slated to reconvene for a special session in which a jet fuel tax break is on the table. The potential annual savings for the airline: some $40 million a year.

2 p.m.  Analysts suggest there's only a slim possibility that Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams land in a Dec. 4 runoff, predicting that Libertarian Ted Metz's margin will get squeezed in a polarizing contest that's getting heaps of national attentions.

But if neither candidate gets a majority-vote – and both campaigns are quietly preparing for that outcome, never mind their public statements – state history tends to favor the GOP.

No general election race for governor has ever required a runoff, but Republicans have dominated many of the other races that go into overtime, starting with a 1992 narrow win by Republican challenger Paul Coverdell over Democratic U.S. Sen. Wyche Fowler.

The GOP also thrived in the last general election runoff took place in 2008, when U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss trounced Democrat Jim Martin in a runoff after the Republican narrowly missed an outright win.

Then again, Democrats hope a flood of momentum and attention will keep Abrams’ supporters motivated. Polls already suggest high Democratic enthusiasm, and voters won’t be able to avoid news about the race.

Another wrinkle: The timing of the runoff could force Deal to rethink plans to call a special legislative session next week to provide about $100 million in relief from Hurricane Michael and decide on a controversial tax break for jet fuel.

Moving ahead as scheduled would mean that Kemp, who has dismissed demands to resign as secretary of state, wouldn’t be able to raise cash for at least a week during a crucial time for his campaign. State law restricts him from doing so when the General Assembly is in session.

12:30 p.m. A Republican state senator is raising eyebrows with comments he made about leveraging next week's expected special legislative session to clip Stacey Abrams' wings if she's elected governor.

Predicting “chaos” if the Democrat wins, state Sen. Bruce Thompson said at a Monday meeting that he believes Gov. Nathan Deal and other Republicans could restrict Abrams’ executive powers in the session - much like North Carolina Republicans did after Democrat Roy Cooper’s victory.

"Could it be to strip away some of the power of the governorship in the event that happens?" he said. "So it might be that you restrict some of those powers and balance a little more and leave it at the foot of the governor that if it goes to a runoff and the result isn't what you want, you institute it. It goes the way you want it to, you veto it."

The governor has firmly rejected that notion.

In an interview last week, Deal said such a move is not on the agenda "as far as I'm concerned." Which means it won't happen: State law lets governors strictly control the agenda that lawmakers consider.

“That is not what the special session is called for,” he added. “It’s for Hurricane Michael and for the impact on the southwest part of the state. We cannot pay for all the losses.”

Original post – 12:00 a.m. 

We hope you have your vat of coffee ready, because it’s Election Day in Georgia!

All eyes are on the state as voters cast ballots in the race for governor between Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp. A bevy of down-ballot races that serve as microcosms of many national political fights will also (hopefully) be settled.

The marquee race is of course the one at the top of the ticket.

The neck-and-neck gubernatorial contest between Republican Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams has attracted an unprecedented amount of cash, as well as a stream of high-profile surrogates, including two presidents, a talk show icon and countless 2020 hopefuls.

Both candidates have been playing toward their bases as they seek to drive up turnout in a race that's been rocked by allegations of voter suppression and an eleventh-hour election security probe involving Kemp and the Democratic Party of Georgia.

Democrats are also hoping to flip many down-ticket seats, including a pair of U.S. House districts in Atlanta's fast-changing northern suburbs and a host of state legislative races in competitive territory. Many of those challengers have put health care at the centerpiece of their campaigns. GOP incumbents, meanwhile, have been playing up the booming economy, their support for law enforcement and their relationship with popular outgoing Gov. Nathan Deal.

Voter enthusiasm is sky-high – and not only on the left. Roughly 68 percent of Georgia Republicans and three-quarters of Democrats have labeled the midterm election as "much more important" or "more important" than past votes. A record 2.1 million people have cast early ballots, shattering previous records and approaching the overall turnout from the midterm elections four years ago.

Check back here throughout the day for the latest updates on Georgia’s top races.

And as we wait for the polls to close at 7 p.m., check out our overview of the governor's race, our last-minute voting guide and preview of what we're watching for this rainy Tuesday. For full coverage, check out Politically Georgia.