Judge rejects recount bid by GOP Rep. Allen West
Tea party favorite vows to keep fighting in race against Patrick Muprhy
A judge rejected U.S. Rep. Allen West's request for a recount of all ballots cast early in his race against Democrat Patrick Murphy, dealing another blow Friday to the Republican incumbent's efforts to remain in Congress.
St. Lucie Circuit Judge Dan Vaughn sided with attorneys for Murphy, the apparent victor in the 18th Congressional District race, as well as those representing the county supervisor of elections and canvassing board. He agreed with arguments that he had no authority to order a recount and that West's campaign could contest the election if they are unsatisfied with its results.
"I appreciate the significance of this," Circuit Judge Dan Vaughn said three times before ruling against West.
The county's canvassing board still could order a fuller recount and was due to meet later Friday afternoon on the subject. Murphy's attorneys argued state law does not give the board the discretion to do a recount beyond what they conducted on Sunday, when they reprocessed ballots from three days of early voting.
Tim Edson, West's campaign manager, promised to continue pursuing "whatever legal avenues are available to ensure that all these votes are counted."
With St. Lucie's revised its ballot count, Murphy has 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. The Democrat is the winner in the eyes of the state and was in Washington this week attending House orientation. But West's campaign has refused to concede.
"Their objective is not to ensure a fair and accurate accounting of all votes but simply to ensure that Mr. Murphy can continue pretending to be a congressman," Edson said.
West's attorneys claim all kinds of possible malfeasance at the polls, including discrepancies between the number of people signed in at precincts and the ultimate number of votes counted, and submitted such data to the court. An attorney for Murphy, Sean Domnick, said Vaughn's ruling shows the judge does not believe there is merit to such arguments.
"There is nothing that they pointed to that is going to change the outcome of this case," Domnick said. "Patrick Murphy is the congressman for District 18."
State Democrats accused Florida Gov. Rick Scott of interfering with the race. Democratic National Party Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz issued a statement, saying: “In a clear effort to overturn an election result after having lost at the ballot box, Allen West has now run to Governor Rick Scott to needlessly interfere with and politicize a non-partisan election process.
"All votes in this election were counted fairly and accurately, and Allen West has lost beyond the mandatory recount range. Having Governor Scott intervene is outrageous and inappropriate. After disenfranchising Florida voters by cutting down early voting days and creating extraordinarily long lines at the polls, Governor Scott is now trying to blatantly overturn an election result he disagreed with and undermine Gertrude Walker, a three-decade veteran of the St. Lucie County Supervisor of Elections office. Governor Scott needs to remove himself from this process immediately."
Counties must file certified election results with the state by noon Sunday. West can formally contest the election after that.
The race was one of the country's most expensive House contests and one of the most closely watched.
West, 51, is a first-term tea party favorite who has made a string of headline-grabbing statements, from calling scores 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.
Copyright 2012 by Post Newsweek. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.