The GOP gubernatorial primary was one of the most anti-gay races in recent Georgia history, and that didn't change as Nathan Deal and Karen Handel battled it out in the runoff. In one of the most egregious examples, Deal released a campaign ad claiming Handel supported YouthPride, an Atlanta LGBT youth agency, which Deal claimed "promotes homosexuality" to children as young as 13.
Tuesday ended with the runoff too close to call, but Handel conceded late Wednesday morning.
Here's an excerpt from the statement she sent to supporters, as reported by the AJC's Political Insider:
We certainly have the option of requesting the automatic statewide recount. But we are not going to do that.
The best thing for our party is to rally around Congressman Deal as our nominee in the fight against Roy Barnes. Barnes would return Georgia to a past that is best kept in our rearview mirror. We must marshal all of our resources to defeat him.
I spoke with Nathan this morning and let him know that I endorse his candidacy and look forward to the fight against Barnes. I have also called on all who were supporting me to give their same commitment and energy to Nathan.
I thank the people of Georgia for the opportunity to serve them and for allowing me to interview for the job of Governor. This was an amazing journey, and the friendships that Steve and I made enriched our lives immeasurably. I look forward to finding a way to serve this great state in the future.
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, unofficial results from the Georgia Secretary of State's website showed Deal with 50.2 percent of the vote, or 290,580 votes, compared to 49.8 percent, or 288,091 votes for Handel. Only 2,489 votes separated the two candidates out of 579,036 votes cast.
Deal, a former congressman, had repeatedly attacked Handel, former Georgia secretary of state, for her membership in the pro-gay Log Cabin Republicans and support for domestic partner benefits back when she was a candidate for the Fulton County Commission.
Handel has denied both since seeking state offices, including claiming that emails signed "fondly, Karen" and sent to the then-head of the Georgia Log Cabin Republicans that voiced support for domestic partner benefits were written by her campaign staff without her knowledge. In the GOP gubernatorial primary, Handel went so far as to say she “would consider” legislation to ban gay adoptions.
In the July runoff, Handel placed first with 34.1 percent. Deal placed second with 22.9 percent of the vote. As a member of the U.S. House, he consistently received scores of zero on HRC’s Congressional report card for LGBT issues and has voted for a federal constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.
The winner of the Republican runoff will face former Gov. Roy Barnes, a Democrat, and John H. Monds, a Libertarian, on the Nov. 2 ballot.