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A top Tennessee House Democrat on Wednesday sharply criticized Republican Gov. Bill Lee's refusal to acknowledge Democrat Joe Biden's victory over President Donald Trump in the Nov. 3 presidential election, charging the governor's "bogus claims" about uncertainty are "undermining an entire electoral process."

"Assuming that Gov. Lee is just not basing his decision on some crazy political delusion, he needs to explain to the press today why he is not recognizing Joe Biden as victorious," House Democratic Caucus Chair Mike Stewart of Nashville told reporters during a video news conference.

Stewart called it "essential that the people understand that we politicians respect their votes and we respect the results of elections."

On Tuesday, Lee told reporters it's "not clear" yet who won the presidential election in which Biden won an apparently decisive presidential victory. The Associated Press and other news organizations have projected there is no way mathematically for ongoing vote counting and certification to reverse the result.

Trump, who has refused to concede, has questioned the integrity of mail-in ballots in several key states. And the president is now waging legal battles in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia and elsewhere over the validity of some mail-in ballots, access for his supporters to watch ballot counting and other issues.

"I think it's a function of recognizing that this country has a process for elections, especially very closely contested elections," Lee said Tuesday. "And we need to let that process play out. And the president, we have one president at a time, and the president has every right to pursue legal challenges. We have states that are in the process of recounts."

Among states that will recount ballots is Georgia, where Biden leads by some 14,000 votes. If that lead remains, Democrats would carry a state they haven't won since Bill Clinton won the Peach State in 1992.

Lee also said he supports efforts by Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery, an appointed Republican, who on Monday joined a group of fellow Republican state attorneys general in filing an "amicus curiae," or "friend of the court," brief siding with Trump in a challenge in Pennsylvania. Unofficial results there show Biden leading by more than 40,000 ballots.

Lee said that while he had not personally spoken with Slatery, his office had been in contact with him and that he supported Slatery's involvement.

Meanwhile, some Republicans, among them former U.S. Sen. Bob Corker of Chattanooga, have congratulated Biden on his victory.

Stewart said he agrees that Trump carried Tennessee, with yet-to-be-certified results showing the president received nearly 1.85 million votes, or 60.7% of the ballots cast, compared to nearly 1.14 million votes, or 37.4%, for Biden. Tennessee has 11 electoral votes.

But Stewart said vote tallies not only in Pennsylvania but Georgia, Michigan and several other critical states support Biden winning nationally. If Lee has "some secret information that he really believes calls into question this election, he needs to call up Fox News right now and tell them, because Fox News long ago called this election for Joe Biden," he added.

Stewart also charged that Lee's raising of "bogus concerns about the recent presidential election undermines the election process" and is "totally illegitimate."

Georgia Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced Wednesday officials will conduct a hand-counted audit of the presidential vote, which President-elect Biden leads by more than 14,000. Officials want the audit done by Nov. 20, the state's deadline for certification.

Biden, who now has 279 electoral votes including Pennsylvania, has already won the national election, according to The Associated Press and multiple television and cable news networks. It takes 27o electoral votes to win.

Asked about Stewart's charges, Lee spokesman Gillum Ferguson said "the governor provided his thoughts on the election yesterday. Nothing else to add from us."

U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, U.S. Sen.-elect Bill Hagerty and U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, an Ooltewah Republican, have urged Republicans to financially support the president in his legal efforts.

Control of the U.S. Senate — where Republicans as of Wednesday held 50 seats in the 100-member chamber — hinges on two hotly contested U.S. Senate runoff races in Georgia.

Incumbent Sen. David Perdue, a Republican, faces Democrat Jon Ossoff. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a Republican appointed to fill the vacancy created by then-Sen. Johnny Isakson's resignation due to health problems, faces Democrat Raphael Warnock.

Voting in those races is set for Jan. 5.

Democratic victories in both seats would give Democrats 50 seats as well as procedural control of the Senate, where presumed Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris could break 50-50 ties with Republicans on floor votes.

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.

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