FORT PIERCE, Fla. – Election officials missed a deadline Sunday to report results of a two-day recount in GOP Rep. Allen West's race to remain in Congress, apparently sealing unofficial results giving the win to Democrat Patrick Murphy.
St. Lucie County did not meet a noon cutoff to finish processing 37,379 ballots cast early in the District 18 congressional election. Under Florida law, previously submitted results favoring Murphy will be certified unless an emergency exemption is granted by the state.
"They did this recount because they weren't confident in the outcome," said West campaign manager Tim Edson. "Now, because they missed the deadline, we're not going to know whether they were right in their concern or not."
Edson said the incumbent's campaign was looking at what could be done to possibly extend the deadline and suggested the fight was not yet over.
"We'll continue with all legal options that are available," he said.
Angry West supporters loudly chanted "Count our votes!" as they awaited an explanation from county officials.
The task of proving there was an emergency that necessitated missing the deadline appeared difficult. State law says an election 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."
The Murphy campaign, which has been proclaiming the Democrat the victor since the wee hours of Election Night, said that the law was clear and that the political newcomer would be certified the winner.
"The voters have spoken, and Patrick Murphy is once again the clear winner," campaign manager Anthony Kusich. "It is beyond time to put this campaign behind us and put the interests of the people of the Treasure Coast and Palm Beaches first."
If the unofficial results, submitted last week, are certified, Murphy will win by about 1,900 votes. A spokesman for the Secretary of State's office did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
A recount of three days of early voting ballots was conducted in St. Lucie County last week, narrowing Murphy's margin a bit. The county's canvassing board ultimately agreed to retabulate all eight days of ballots after several errors were made public and West's supporters made a relentless push for a fuller recount. The campaign hoped Murphy's margin of victory would decrease enough to force a machine recount of all ballots across the entire three-county district.
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.