FORT PIERCE (CBSMiami/AP) – In the hotly contested Florida District 18 congressional race, a partial recount Sunday in St. Lucie County gave incumbent Allen West a slight bump, but not enough to warrant a full recount or end threats of a lawsuit from his campaign.
The recount revised downward the totals for both West and the unofficial winner in the race, Democrat Patrick Murphy. Because Murphy lost more votes in the recount than West, it was a net gain for the Republican incumbent, though his margin of loss remained just above the threshold to order a full recount.
Neither side left the supervisor of elections’ office happy.
West’s campaign objected to the three days of early-voting ballots that were recounted, the absence of a full recount of early votes and the county’s refusal to turn over some other documentation requested.
“There was a kangaroo court in Fort Pierce early today for Early Votes in the West/Murphy
Congressional race,” said the West campaign in a statement. The promise of a recount of all 37,379 Early Votes was reneged on in favor of a revised recount of 16,275 Early Votes, the days the West camp did not take issue with. The disputed Early Voting Days’ ballots were not counted”
The statement went on to say “The chain of evidence was nonexistent. The ballots were stored in unsecured, unsealed, non-uniform boxes. They remained open to tampering by anyone with access to the Elections Office, including all of their employees.”
St. Lucie’s revised numbers, combined with previously reported numbers for the district’s two other counties, had Murphy with a 50.3 percent share of the ballots, an overall lead of 1,907 votes. That margin of six-tenths of a percentage point is just above the half-percentage point threshold to order a full recount.
“They got what they wanted, they lost,” said Sean Domnick, an attorney for Murphy. “It’s time to step aside and let Patrick Murphy do the business of the people.”
Though not required, St. Lucie County agreed to the partial recount to settle concerns over the processing of some early votes, which election officials said was done “out of an abundance of caution.” Heather Young, an assistant county attorney, said all dates affected by an Election Night failure in loading memory cards were included in Sunday’s count.
Still, a protracted legal fight by West appeared more likely with each passing day.
The race was the country’s most expensive House contests and one of the most closely watched. The two sides had raised nearly $21 million as of Oct. 17, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, and Super PACs poured in about $6.6 million.
West, 51, is a first-term tea party favorite and one of only two black Republicans in the House. He has made a string of headline-grabbing statements, from calling a majority of congressional Democrats communists to saying President Barack Obama, Rep. Nancy Pelosi and others should “get the hell out of the United States.”
Murphy, 29, is a political newcomer who portrayed West as an extremist who has done little else in Washington than stoke partisan fires.
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