Stacey Abrams calls Kemp Georgia's 'legal' governor

Runner up won't call election legitimate

By CAROLINE KELLY
AP

Stacey Abrams was the winner in the Democratic primary in Georgia's gubernatorial race on May 22, 2018.

(CNN) - Former Democratic Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams said Sunday that while her opponent, Republican Brian Kemp, was the legal victor of the state governor's race, she would not call him the legitimate winner.

Abrams told CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union" that she thought there was deliberate interference in the election, saying "it began eight years ago with the systematic disenfranchisement of more than a million voters. It continued with the underfunding and disinvestment in polling places, in training and in the management of the county delivery of services. And I think it had its pinnacle in this race."

"So yes, there was a deliberate and intentional disinvestment and, I think, destruction of the administration of elections in the state of Georgia," Abrams added.

The Georgia race has stoked a fierce new front in the national battle over voting rights and access to the polls. Kemp, who as Georgia's recently resigned secretary of state promoted and enforced some of the nation's most restrictive voting laws, was accused repeatedly before and during the campaign of seeking to suppress the minority vote.

Abrams on Friday ended her bid to become the first African American woman elected to lead a state. The announcement followed more than a week of post-election legal maneuvering from her campaign and allies, who sought to find enough votes to reduce Kemp's lead and force a December 4 runoff. In a fiery speech, Abrams announced plans for a "major federal lawsuit against the state of Georgia for the gross mismanagement of this election and to protect future elections from unconstitutional actions."

In a statement Friday, Kemp said he appreciated Abrams' "passion, hard work, and commitment to public service."

"The election is over and hardworking Georgians are ready to move forward. We can no longer dwell on the divisive politics of the past but must focus on Georgia's bright and promising future," he said.

Abrams continued to allege Kemp blocked eligible voters from voter rolls in her interview on Sunday.

"Trust in our democracy relies on believing there are good actors who are making this happen, and he was a horrible actor who benefited from his perfidy."

When Tapper asked Abrams whether Kemp was the legitimate governor-elect of Georgia, she said she did "acknowledge the law as it stands" that he received sufficient votes.

"But we know sometimes the law does not do what it should and something being legal does not make it right," she added. "This is someone who has compromised our systems."

When Tapper pressed her on not using the word "legitimate," Abrams replied, "what's not right is saying that something was done properly when it was not."

"I will never deny the legal imprimatur that says he is in this position, and I pray for his success," she added. "But will I say that this election was not tainted, was not a disinvestment and a disenfranchisement of thousands of voters? I will not say that."

Tapper asked how her accusations differed from President Donald Trump's unfounded claims that there was interference in Florida's hotly contested Senate and governor's races.

"My accusations are based entirely on evidence," she said. "We had four different federal judges in the course of a week say that what we witnessed was wrong and forced better behavior. And what I'm simply asking for is another court to force even stronger behaviors, legal reforms that will guarantee that no one has to question the legitimacy of our election."

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