Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Partial recount not enough to let Allen West keep seat

FORT PIERCE — A partial recount gave Rep. Allen West a slight bump Sunday in his fight to remain in Congress, but not enough to mandate a full review of ballots or to end threats of lawsuits from his campaign.

St. Lucie County's limited recount revised downward the totals for 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. Murphy's campaign noted even a partial recount wasn't necessary under state law. 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.

"What's going on today is a sham. It does nothing to address all the concerns we have," West campaign manager Tim Edson said. "We'll take every legal action necessary."

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 contest 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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