Former Secretary of State Karen Handel conceded Wednesday in her bid for the GOP nomination to run for governor in Georgia.
She's throwing her support behind her opponent, former U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal.
Handel said in a statement that she will not seek a recount even though she trailed Deal by less than 1 percent of the vote.
Handel said the best thing for the party is to rally around Deal as the party's nominee in the fight against Democratic nominee Roy Barnes.
In unofficial returns, Deal and Handel had each claimed 50 percent of the vote with 99 percent of precincts reporting. Deal held 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 re-count if the margin is less than 1 percent.
Recounting the more than a half-million ballots cast Tuesday could have delayed selection of a GOP nominee until next week.
Both candidates had high-profile Republicans in their corner.
Handel had been the presumed front runner. She catapulted to the top of the seven-person GOP field in the July 20 primary — outpacing Deal by 11 percentage points. An endorsement from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin helped. Palin flew across four time zones on Monday to stump for Handel in Atlanta in a rally designed to lift the former secretary of state across the finish line.
But Deal battled back from ethics allegations and staged a late surge, patching together support from rural parts of the state that appeared to embrace his staunchly conservative views and 18-year record in Congress. Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is a possible presidential contender, was on Deal's side.
Since no candidate in the primary grabbed 50 percent plus one vote, the top two, Handel and Deal, met in a runoff.
The winner will face Democrat Roy Barnes in November.
As the two battled across the state for their party's nomination, Deal cast Handel as too liberal and suggested her lack of a college degree sent the wrong message to Georgia students.
Meanwhile, Handel repeatedly assailed Deal's ethics and labeled him "a corrupt relic of Washington." During a televised debate, Handel called on Deal to stop "squealing" about negative attacks and put on "big boy pants."
The 48-year-old Handel cast herself as a fiery outsider, and Deal, 67, played the role of steady, consensus builder with backing from many Republican members of the state Legislature.
Handel had initially refused to concede saying, "we are in this fight," she said. "Let's keep the faith, stay optimistic and party on."
Barnes is already running ads for the general election and said he will run his own race regardless of the Republican outcome.
"I'm going to be laying out the comparisons and contrasts in this race based on issues not personalities," Barnes said.
Associated Press writers Kate Brumback in Atlanta and Errin Haines in Gainesville contributed to this report.
Nathan Deal for Governor: http://www.nathandeal.org
Karen Handel for Governor: http://www.karenhandel.com
© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.