by Alan Fram
Associated Press Writer
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Election Day has come and gone and Republican Rep. Allen West is still fighting for votes — in the courtroom.
|TEA PARTY IDOL–This Oct. 4 photo shows Rep. Allen West, R-Fla. during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg, File)
West, the freshman tea party-idol struggling for re-election in South Florida, found himself 2,456 votes behind Democratic rival Patrick Murphy in Tuesday’s unofficial tally. Citing “disturbing irregularities” at the polls, his campaign was due in a West Palm Beach courtroom Friday on his request to impound ballots and voting machines in Palm Beach County, one of three counties in his congressional district.
“I’m not looking out for anyone to unlevel the playing field,” West said Nov. 8 on “Kilmeade and Friends” on Fox News Radio. “All I want to do is to be able to say, ‘Here’s an issue that we believe should be brought up to protect the constituents.’”
While his seemed the most fractious, West’s contest was among eight House races with margins too slender for The Associated Press to declare winners as mail-in and provisional votes were still being counted. Along with three races in California, two in Arizona and one each in North Carolina and Utah, the battle between West and Murphy was staggering ahead zombie-like, refusing to die.
“This is just dragging out an election that people are more than willing to have over,” said Eric Johnson, a Murphy adviser.
Of the eight uncalled races, Democrats led in all but one. Whatever the outcomes, Republicans will control the 435-member House next year with at least 233 seats, though their final margin will be below the 242 they held in the current Congress.
In South Florida, Murphy’s campaign shrugged off West’s legal action, noting that the margin in their race exceeded the half-percentage point threshold for a recount. The Democrat has already declared victory and was beginning a three-day “thank you” tour on Thursday on the assumption that he will take office in January.
Murphy said he planned to travel to Washington next week for freshman orientation.
“I’m going to leave it up to the lawyers and the judges and let them decide what happens from here,” he said. “We’re tired of the bickering, we’re tired of the back and forth and we want to get to work. We want to put this election behind us.”
West was still hoping that uncounted absentee and provisional ballots could narrow his gap. His campaign said he also was planning legal action in St. Lucie County, though the court clerk’s office said it had not yet been filed. No such request was made in Martin County.
A partial recount gave 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 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.
“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 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.