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GOP Senate Candidate John James Refuses To Concede, Claims Irregularities In Votes

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Michigan Senator Gary Peters narrowly defeated Republican challenger John James. But it took The Associated Press until Wednesday night to call the race, and now Mr. James is refusing to concede and is making allegations of irregularities with the vote. Abigail Censky from member station WKAR has more.

ABIGAIL CENSKY, BYLINE: Election night was strange for both the Michigan Senate candidates this year. Senator Gary Peters, the incumbent Democrat, who won, hosted an event thanking supporters at an empty racetrack. His opponent, John James, held a party inside of his business' warehouse. Both candidates spoke before the race was called, although at that point, it looked like John James and Donald Trump had leads. James was upbeat.

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JOHN JAMES: There's still a lot of votes to be counted, to be sure, but we're extremely excited and optimistic about where we stand right now.

CENSKY: By Wednesday night, the absentee votes from Michigan's biggest cities were counted, and Joe Biden and Gary Peters were ahead. When Peters gave his victory speech the next morning, his opponent still hadn't conceded.

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GARY PETERS: It's sad, and it's pathetic. They lost. It's very clear.

CENSKY: James hasn't called Peters to concede. And concessions don't hold any legal weight. Still, it matters, says Peters.

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PETERS: I would just say to Mr. James and their campaign, accept the opinion and the votes of the people of the state of Michigan. That's the right thing to do.

CENSKY: James' lawyer has sent a letter to Detroit-area officials alleging problems with the vote count. And the state Republican Party and Republican National Committee are giving weight to those claims without providing any evidence. GOP Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel spoke Friday.

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RONNA MCDANIEL: We are having issues right now. I heard it from the James campaign. And so what we've heard last night as well - or at TCF is it would force our poll watchers to be 6 feet back so they couldn't see. Part of being able to observe is actually seeing the ballots.

CENSKY: But that's just not true, say people who were inside of the absentee counting operation. There were an equal number of poll challengers for Democrats and Republicans, as required by state law.

Mark Brewer is the former head of the Michigan Democratic Party and was volunteering as a lawyer inside. He says it was one of the best-run vote-counting sites he's seen in over 40 years.

MARK BREWER: We're simply now going through the double-checking process that we've always done. All of this by the Republicans, by Mr. James' lawyer is simply an attempt to confuse the public and create chaos where none exists.

CENSKY: Once Michigan's counties finish that double-checking, James will have 48 hours to ask for a recount.

For NPR News, I'm Abigail Censky in Lansing.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.