(CNN) – The two major candidates in Georgia's hotly contested Senate race both said Wednesday they Are launching runoff campaigns as votes continued to be counted and neither man held a majority.
At midday, Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss led Democratic challenger Jim Martin, with Chambliss having 1,838,891 votes or 49.9 percent to Martin's 1,721,087 or 46.7 percent. Libertarian candidate Allen Buckley was credited with 3.4 percent of the vote.
"We're in a runoff," Martin said at a news conference. "This race has just begun."
Chambliss also called a news conference to declare, "We've already hit the ground. We're getting ready for the runoff."
A spokesman for the Georgia secretary of state's office said it will likely be next week before election results are finalized and certified statewide.
An unknown number of ballots from members of the military and Georgians overseas were yet to be counted, scattered precincts in the state had yet to report their totals, voters issued provisional ballots for various reasons had until Thursday to resolve their issues and have their votes counted, and at least one major county in the state was still tallying ballots that had been mailed in, said Matt Carrothers of the secretary of state's office.
He added it is likely that some votes had not even come in yet as members of the military and voters overseas have until Friday for the state to receive their ballots.
"As to how many votes that all adds up to, we don't know and won't know probably until next week," Carrothers said. He added that Georgia's 159 counties - more counties by number than any other state except Texas - will certify their election results once all votes are in and counted, then the
secretary of state's office will certify the counties' results some time next week for an official statewide result.
Carrothers said Fulton County, which includes much of Atlanta and where Martin ran strongly, was still counting ballots mailed in.
In Tuesday's voting, Martin, a former state legislator, fared well in Georgia's urban areas while Chambliss, who unseated Democrat Max Cleland in 2002 in a high-profile Republican effort, was strong in conservative suburban and rural areas.
Voting in the Senate race reflected to a large degree statewide voting in the presidential race. Republican Sen. John McCain had 2,020,680 votes for 52 percent of the state total while Democratic Sen. Barack Obama had 1,809,884 or 47 percent.
Martin quickly sought to link himself with the new president-elect. He invoked Obama's name several times during his news conference Wednesday, saying at one point, "I'm going to do everything I can do to help Barack Obama get off to a fast start."
Secretary of State Karen Handel issued a news release Wednesday saying that 3.9 million Georgians voted in the election, about half of them through early balloting. The total number of voters was more than half a million more than in the general election in 2004, Handel said.