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Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp wins re-election, defeating Stacey Abrams in rematch

Because Kemp, who defeated Abrams in 2018, is expected to win more than 50% of the vote, there will not be a runoff election in the race, NBC News projects.

Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp wins re-election, NBC News projects, fending off a challenge from Stacey Abrams.

Because Kemp, who defeated Abrams in 2018, is expected to win more than 50% of the vote, there will not be a runoff.

The race had been seen as one of the marquee governor matchups in the country, with the candidates taking starkly different positions on voting rights, crime, gun laws, abortion and other issues.

In recent weeks, however, Kemp had pulled away in the polls, leading Abrams in most surveys by upward of 6 percentage points.

Kemp won decisively despite having found himself a constant target of attacks from former President Donald Trump.

Trump had crusaded against his fellow Republican after Kemp refused to help him overturn the 2020 results in Georgia. President Joe Biden's victory there helped cost Trump re-election. But Trump’s hand-picked candidate in the Republican primary, former Sen. David Perdue, lost handily to Kemp, as Republican voters expressed weariness with Trump’s involvement in the state party. 

Abrams had aimed to mobilize the Democratic base, trying to inspire and register disaffected Georgians and turbocharge turnout. In recent weeks, she had leaned in to push herself as a bold progressive, with ads that presented her as a “math whiz” with liberal ideas to raise teacher pay, extend child care and fund preschool.

The race was a rematch of the 2018 race, which Abrams lost by about 55,000 votes after she launched a huge effort to register new voters. Abrams never formally conceded and refused to call Kemp's victory "legitimate," claiming Kemp, who was the state secretary of state during the race, hadn't done anything to protect voting rights or combat allegations of voter suppression.

“Democracy failed in Georgia,” Abrams said after the contest, which was marred by allegations of voter roll purging and suppression largely affecting Black voters.

Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams arrives to speak a conference in Washington on April 6, 2022.
Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams arrives to speak a conference in Washington on April 6.Drew Angerer / Getty Images file

Abrams continued an aggressive voter registration campaign, making her a hero among progressives; some credit her efforts with Democrats’ successes in painting Georgia blue in the presidential election two years later. A pair of Democrats, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, would go on to win runoff elections to flip Senate seats held by the GOP and hand Democrats narrow control.

Months after Biden took office, amid continuing false claims from Trump and other Republicans that voter fraud had occurred in the state, Kemp signed into law a package of restrictive changes to the state election process. They included requiring identification for mail voting and making it illegal to take food or water to voters in line, as well as new rules like shortening runoff campaigns from nine weeks to less than a month, cutting the early voting period required for runoff elections from three weeks to one week, allowing the Legislature to appoint the chair of the State Election Board and allowing the State Election Board to take over county election administration.

Kemp's efforts to tighten voting laws, however, never earned him the backing of Trump, who remained furious that Kemp never got behind his efforts to overturn the election results in the state.

Abrams' struggles in this campaign sparked a new debate about the limits of mobilization alone, particularly with the new voting laws.

Abrams and Kemp faced off twice in debates. In the final debate, in late October, Abrams appeared to acknowledge that she was consistently polling behind Kemp.

“The polls may not see you, but I do. And the only poll that matters is at the ballot box,” she said.