Leaders in Georgia's fractured Republican Party preached unity even as the outcome of the bruising primary runoff for governor remained in doubt.
As of 8:30 a.m., some 2,500 votes separated the two candidates, leaving the race too close to call and a recount likely.
In unofficial returns, Nathan Deal and Karen Handel each claimed 50 percent of the vote with 99 percent of precincts reporting.
Deal did hold a slim lead with an unknown number of provisional, overseas and military ballots yet to be counted. Under Georgia law, the runner-up can request a recount if the margin is less than 1 percent.
But in Bryan County, unofficial returns show that Handel was the favorite among voters, where she garnered 938 votes to Deal’s 742.
At a packed GOP breakfast Wednesday in Atlanta, House Speaker David Ralston warned the GOP must unite to defeat Democrat Roy Barnes in November. Deal was at the breakfast. Handel was a no show.
Meanwhile in other primary races (all have 99 percent of precincts reporting):
- GOP race for attorney general: Sam Olen, 59 percent; Preston Smith, 41 percent
- GOP race for insurance commissioner: Ralph Hudgens, 55 percent; Maria Sheffield, 45 percent
- GOP race for public service commissioner: Tim Echols, 52 percent; John Douglas, 48 percent
- Democrat race for secretary of state: Georganna Sinkfield, 62 percent; Gail Buckner, 38 percent.
Bryan County results with 100 percent of precincts reporting:
- GOP governor: Nathan Deal, 742 votes; Karen Handel, 938
- GOP attorney general: Sam Olens, 681 votes; Preston Smith, 754
- GOP insurance commissioner: Ralph Hudgens, 626 votes; Maria Sheffield 840
- GOP public service commissioner: Tim Echols, 710 votes; John Douglas, 689
- Democrat secretary of state: Georganna Sinkfield, 27 votes; Gail Buckner, 35