WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Firebrand Republican Rep. Allen West was defeated by Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy, according to the state's vote count Saturday, but the incumbent won't concede.
The state issued complete but unofficial results showing Murphy with a lead of 2,442 votes, or 50.4 percent. That's beyond the half-percent margin needed to trigger an automatic recount. A handful of overseas and military ballots remain outstanding, but under state law the decision for a recount is based on Saturday's count.
Murphy declared victory early Wednesday morning and has held his lead ever since, even as thousands of absentee and provisional ballots were processed. He issued a statement Saturday saying it was time to put the campaign behind. He called his win a signal that voters were tired of the extremism West represented.
West's campaign insists there are many unanswered questions in the race, mostly centered in St. Lucie County, the only one of three counties in the district that Murphy won. They are concerned that votes were counted twice and have asked to review sign-in books from the polls to ensure the number of voters matched the ballot count.
"We're simply not going to just walk away from the race until we see that the numbers add up," West campaign manager Tim Edson said.
West's only path forward appears to be through the courts. Under state law, he still could contest the election if misconduct or fraud might have changed its result.
"If I come out on the short end of the stick, guess what?" West told WPEC-TV on Friday. "I salute the flag, I wish you good luck and I continue on, and hopefully my replacement will be able to go up and contend with these monumental issues."
The race was the country's most expensive House race 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 is a former Army lieutenant colonel who was elected in 2010 on a wave of tea party support. He is one of only two black Republicans in the House. He had a constant 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, was a political newcomer who portrayed West as an extremist who has done little else in Washington than stoke partisan fires.