FILE - This combination of May 20, 2018, photos shows Georgia gubernatorial candidates Stacey Abrams, left, and Brian Kemp in Atlanta, Georgia.
FILE - This combination of May 20, 2018, photos shows Georgia gubernatorial candidates Stacey Abrams, left, and Brian Kemp in Atlanta, Georgia.

The Democratic candidate in Georgia's governor's race, Stacey Abrams, on Friday ended her challenge in the closely fought election but vowed to bring a lawsuit against what she called the state's "gross mismanagement'' of the vote. 

Abrams told a news conference on Friday, "Let's be clear: This is not a speech of concession" to Republican Brian Kemp. However, she acknowledged that she had no further recourse under the law to fight the election results. 

In accepting Abrams' decision to end her campaign, Kemp said, "Hardworking Georgians are ready to move forward." He praised Abrams' "passion, hard work and commitment to public service.'' 

Kemp is Georgia's former secretary of state. Abrams accused Kemp of using his position to interfere with the vote, an allegation he has strongly denied. 

Just over half

Initial results showed Kemp, who was strongly backed by President Donald Trump, won just over the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff. 

The close race drew national attention in part because of Abrams' effort to become the first black female U.S. governor. Election officials said voter turnout was nearly as high as in the 2016 presidential race. 

Abrams' announcement came as several other races across the country, including in neighboring Florida, remained unresolved. 

Workers at the Broward County Supervisor of Electi
Workers at the Broward County Supervisor of Elections office, foreground, show observers ballots during a hand recount, Friday, Nov. 16, 2018, in Lauderhill, Fla.

A hand recount of the votes cast in Florida's U.S. Senate race began Friday and was expected to end Sunday. The recount is only to review ballots that were not recorded by voting machines because voters either cast two votes for one race or appeared to choose no candidate. 

Florida law requires a hand recount if a machine count finds the margin of victory is less than 0.25 percent. Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson trails his Republican challenger, Gov. Rick Scott, by just 0.15 percent. 

In another tight Florida contest, Republican Ron DeSantis led in the race for the governor's seat over Democrat Andrew Gillum by 0.4 percent, enough of a margin to avoid a hand recount. 

'A laughingstock'

On Thursday, a federal judge angrily told Florida election officials they were making a mockery of the state around the globe.  

"We have been the laughingstock of the world election after election, but we've still chosen not to fix this," said Mark Walker. 

His remarks were an apparent reference to the 2000 presidential election that had to be decided by the Supreme Court when a statewide vote recount in Florida turned into a mess of confusion, charges and countercharges. 

Democrats, meanwhile, continued to gain seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, after taking back the lower chamber last week for the first time in eight years. Democrats now have a 231-198 edge, with six races still undecided. 

The latest Democratic victory was announced Thursday night. Katie Porter ousted two-term Rep. Mimi Waters in California's 45th District, once a nationally known Republican stronghold. A law professor and champion of consumer rights, Porter ran on a progressive platform that included overturning a tax plan approved by Trump and the Republicans; Medicare for All; and a ban on assault weapons. 

Earlier Thursday, Jared Golden was declared the winner in a race in Maine against incumbent Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin. That contest represented the first test of a new state ranked-choice voting system, designed to prevent candidates in races featuring at least three contenders from winning office without majority support. Golden is a Marine veteran who also campaigned on progressive policies such as Medicare for everyone. 

The day after the election, Trump boasted that "it was a big day yesterday. The Republican Party defied history to expand our Senate majority while significantly beating expectations in the House." 

"It was very close to a complete victory," he trumpeted. 

As results rolled in on election night, it appeared Republicans might add three or four seats to their current 51-49 Senate majority. 

But a Republican lead for a contest in Arizona collapsed, giving Democrat Kyrsten Sinema a seat that been held by Republicans for 30 years. 

With Senate races in Florida and Mississippi yet to be decided, Republicans at most will add two seats to their majority.