ATLANTA -- Former Secretary of State Karen Handel on Wednesday conceded the race for the Republican nomination for governor, throwing her support behind former U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal.
Handel, who trailed Deal by less than 2,500 votes out of more than a half-million cast, said she would not seek a recount in the race. Under Georgia law, the runner-up can request a recount if the margin is less than 1 percent of the vote.
Deal will face Democrat Roy Barnes, a former one-term governor, in the November general election.
''The best thing for our party is to rally around Congressman Deal as our nominee in the fight against Roy Barnes,'' Handel said in a statement released by her campaign. ''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.''
Earlier Wednesday, leaders of Georgia's fractured Republican Party preached unity at a breakfast in Atlanta -- less than 12 hours after the race between Deal and Handel appeared too close to call.
In unofficial returns, Deal and Handel each claimed 50 percent of the vote with 99 percent of precincts reporting. Deal held a lead of 2,489 votes with an unknown number of provisional, overseas and military ballots yet to be counted.
In Gwinnett, the split was just more than 1 percent, with Deal taking 28,005 votes to Handel's 27,265.
In her statement, Handel noted she had the option of requesting a recount but had decided against it.
''I spoke with Nathan this morning and let him know that I endorse his candidacy and look forward to the fight against Barnes,'' Handel said. ''I have also called on all who were supporting me to give their same commitment and energy to Nathan.''