After Florida's St. Lucie County filed the results of its recount Sunday, showing Allen West even farther behind his opponent than before –– the Tea Party-backed Congressman still refuses to concede.
On Sunday, West's Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy declared victory –– again –– in the high-stakes race that grabbed national headlines for its harsh attack ads and the amount of money spent.
The win came at 12:01 p.m., when the St. Lucie County Canvassing Board missed its noon deadline to finish processing 37,379 ballots that were cast from all eight days of early voting in the 18th Congressional District race and file results to the state Division of Elections in Tallahassee.
After Murphy's razor-thin victory Nov. 6., partisans of West suspected irregularities in the early voting ballots and requested the recount.
Under Florida law, in the event of an incomplete recount the original returns are automatically submitted for certification by the state, NBC news reported.
Those counts, submitted last Sunday, show Murphy ahead by 1,900 votes, which is a margin of 0.58 percent, just above the 0.5 percent spread that would trigger an automatic recount of the entire district, CBS states.
Cloud of suspicion
Shortly after 2 p.m. Sunday, St. Lucie County Canvassing Board member Tod Mowery said that
Murphy showed an even greater lead than before the two-day effort began, with 65,841 votes to West’s 52,704. When those results are added to the final tallies in Martin and Palm Beach counties, Murphy’s lead increased to 0.65 percent.
“It’s time for Allen West to do the right thing and concede,” said Eric Johnson, Murphy’s senior adviser, in a prepared statement Sunday, according to The Palm Beach Post. "It is beyond time to put this campaign behind us and put the interests of the people on the Treasure Coast and Palm Beaches first."
West, however, has no such plans.
“Today’s actions cast an even greater cloud of suspicion over the results of St. Lucie County than existed before,” West's campaign manager Tim Edson told the Post. “This election is far from over.”
The West campaign may seek an emergency exemption, TheDenverChannel.com reports.
According to state rules, “Emergency means any occurrence, or threat thereof, whether accidental, natural, or caused by human beings, in war or in peace, that results or may result in substantial injury or harm to the population or substantial damage to or loss of property to the extent it will prohibit an election officer’s ability to conduct a safe and orderly election,” Sunshine State News said.
Most expensive House race in the U.S
Florida’s 18th Congressional District was the most expensive House race in the U.S., according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, the NY Daily News said.
Rep. Allen West (R-FL), charged with war crimes in Iraq, is using a mug shot of his Democratic opponent Patrick Murphy from a nightclub arrest when he was 19 years old, in a campaign ad.
With the help of the conservative Tea Party movement, West, 51, a former Army lieutenant colonel, amassed one of the largest campaign war chests among House Republicans. His supporters include Americans for Prosperity, the conservative political advocacy group funded by the billionaire Koch brothers.
West’s campaign raised more than $17 million – more than four times the $4 million that Murphy took in. Super PACs added another $6.6 million to spending on the race.
West was seeking his second term in the U.S. House of Representatives, where Republicans held onto their majority in the election.
Money can’t buy elections
Murphy, 29, a political newcomer in his first congressional race, looked happy and relaxed at his Palm Beach Gardens office Sunday afternoon, The Post said.
He did not attend any of the court hearings or recounts. Instead, last week, Murphy attended orientation for newly elected freshmen in Washington, D.C., on Capitol Hill. and spent Saturday looking for apartments in Washington.
"I think it's important that the people of the 18th District now have some stability and a representative they can go to in Washington with their questions and concerns," Murphy told TCPalm in a phone interview late Sunday afternoon.
Murphy, who ran a surprisingly well-backed campaign focused on branding West as a divisive right-wing extremist, said the campaign has convinced him of the need for election reform.
“Only good sign is money can’t buy elections,” Murphy said. “We were outspent 4-to-1 and we still won. Imagine what $22 million could have done for so many people.”