ATLANTA ó Georgia's bruising Republican primary runoff for governor had no winner Wednesday as some 2,500 votes separated the two candidates, leaving the race too close to call and a re-count 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 re-count if the margin is less than 1 percent.
If the more than a half-million ballots cast Tuesday are recounted, it could be at least next week before a GOP nominee is selected.
Both candidates have 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 ó 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.