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Handel concedes GOP nomination to Deal
Race had been too close to call
Karen Handel and her husband Steve Handel look over early returns after the polls closed Tuesday. Handel conceded the runoff race this morning for the Republican nomination for governor, making Nathan Deal the nominee.

0812Deal Audio

Nathan Deal reacts to news that Karen Handel has conceded the GOP gubernatorial nomination to him.

Karen Handel has conceded the Republican nomination to Nathan Deal.

Following Tuesday’s close runoff election, Handel has decided to rally behind Deal rather than wait for a recount, according to a statement released this morning.

With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Deal had a 2,489 vote lead over Handel.

Brian Robinson, a spokesman for Deal, said Deal was very appreciative of Handel’s decision.

“Nathan thanked her, congratulated her on a fantastic and hard-fought campaign and told her that he appreciated her graciousness,” Robinson said. “It’s very exciting for us and it’s a great relief.

“Now we as Republicans can focus all of our energy on victory in November and defeating Roy Barnes.”

Barnes issued a statement shortly after noon Wednesday, congratulating Deal on his victory but ready to take the new Republican nominee on in the race for the governor’s mansion.

“But it doesn’t matter who my opponent is, this election is about the serious issues facing all

Georgians, not the out-of-state endorsements and sideline issues that the other team has used to divide voters,” Barnes said in a statement. “After years of ethics violations, teacher furloughs, tax breaks to special interests, homes foreclosed and misplaced priorities our state is falling behind. I have a plan to tackle the serious issues that face our state, and I don’t need on the job training – I have the experience to make Georgia work.”

But he, too, said he hoped the coming months would be focused on issues.

Deal said his campaign will focus on “common sense, practical solutions” to what he said would be the defining issues of the race: education, public safety, health care, transportation and water.

“(Barnes is) making very extravagant promises as to what he’s going to do,” said Deal. “And I think most Georgians recognize promises that are not really capable of being carried out are really nothing more than campaign rhetoric.”

Deal added that it would be “natural” for Barnes to run against what is perceived as the Republican establishment as a way to woo votes as a Democrat in a conservative state.

After such a divisive primary race, Deal is also charged with bringing his party back together for the November election.

As Republicans attended a breakfast in the name of party unity in Atlanta Sunday, most of the party’s nominees were introduced by their opponents in the party primary.

In Deal’s case, Handel wasn’t there.

“She obviously was evaluating what the situation was, and I understand that,” said Deal. “It was a long night for everybody.”

Handel said though she had the option of requesting a recount, the best thing for the Republican party would be to support Deal as the nominee in the fight against Roy Barnes.

“Barnes would return Georgia to a past that is best kept in our rearview mirror,” Handel said. “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.”As Deal talked to reporters in his Gainesville campaign headquarters Wednesday afternoon, he wore a red tie patterned with miniature elephants.

“I thought it was very appropriate for me to wear today,” said Deal.