ATLANTA — Georgia’s last day of early voting was arguably the busiest of the state’s entire election season, marked not only by a high volume of voters at the polls but also by a surprise endorsement and a major retirement.
The endorsement was for Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, and the surprise was that it came from a Democrat: Kwanza Hall, a well-known former congressman in the state who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor earlier this year.
The announcement alarmed and frustrated many Georgia Democrats who saw the move as a swipe at Stacey Abrams, the party’s nominee for governor who endorsed Mr. Hall’s opponent Charlie Bailey during the Democratic primary. Mr. Bailey later defeated Mr. Hall in a runoff election.
“While we don’t agree on every issue, it’s abundantly clear that Brian Kemp is a man of character, a strong leader, and someone who Georgians can trust to put them and their interests first,” Mr. Hall said in a statement. “Governor Kemp’s door has always been open to those who have Georgia’s best interests at heart, regardless of politics, and that’s why I’m proud to support him in his bid for re-election.”
He also threw his support behind Burt Jones, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor.
Mr. Hall’s endorsement of Mr. Kemp, some Democrats argued, could interfere with their efforts to stoke enthusiasm among the party’s base of Black voters that Democrats need to turn out en masse in order to win on Tuesday.
“It could very well solidify this narrative that’s been circulated the last few months about Black men feeling disenfranchised by Democrats,” said Derrick Jackson, an Atlanta-area state representative and vice chair of the state house legislative Black caucus, who pointed to the hundreds of thousands of voters who cast ballots for Mr. Hall, who is Black, during the Democratic primary election in May. “That’s a lot of folks that he can very well have persuaded to say, let me take a second look at Governor Kemp and Burt Jones now.”
The news didn’t stop there. Later in the morning, David Ralston, the Republican speaker of the State House, said that he would not pursue another term of his speakership during the upcoming legislative session of Georgia’s House of Representatives, citing his need to address a health challenge. He is running unopposed for his house seat and said he would remain in that post.
Mr. Ralston is widely regarded as one of Georgia’s most powerful Republican leaders and a voice of moderation in the General Assembly, where his party has the majority in both chambers. His absence could pave the way for further restrictions on abortion or tighter election oversight measures — items he once signaled his resistance to.
The two developments injected even more nervous energy into the final days of an election season that has long put Georgia Democrats ill at ease.
And Friday was yet another record-breaking day of early voting turnout, as long lines at polling places around Atlanta stretched well into the evening. By the day’s end, more than 200,000 voters had cast ballots in Georgia, bringing the statewide total to more than 2 million, according to the secretary of state’s office.