WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Republican Rep. Allen West took the first steps in a legal challenge Wednesday in his closely watched re-election bid even as Democratic opponent Patrick Murphy declared a razor-thin victory.
West, the south Florida Republican who has made headlines nationally for his fiery tea party rhetoric, filed motions asking a judge to require elections officials to impound ballots and voting machines. Separately, his campaign alleged "disturbing irregularities" at the polls and called for a recount.
The conservative congressman refused to concede, but Murphy seized on the projections of several news organizations, declaring himself the victor after a long and often vicious campaign. It was unclear what effect West's actions could have on Murphy's 2,456-vote lead in the unofficial count, but the Republican's hopes appeared to be fading.
"You can always file a lawsuit," said constitutional lawyer Bob Jarvis of Nova Southeastern University, "but I don't see that as a viable option."
Murphy had 50.4 percent of the vote, giving him a margin of about three-quarters of a percentage point. That is above the threshold for a recount under state law. All precincts had reported their tallies, but West held out hope for a surge of support from provisional and other outstanding ballots. That looked increasingly unlikely.
Still, West showed no signs of backing down two years after he came into office on the 2010 GOP wave. He did not appear at his election night party, but his campaign manager, Tim Edson, issued a statement urging patience.
"This race is far from decided and there is no rush to declare an outcome," Edson said. "Ensuring a fair and accurate counting of all ballots is of the utmost importance."
West, 51, elevated his profile with a seemingly unending string of headline-grabbing statements, from charging that scores of congressional Democrats are communists to labeling Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., as "vile" and "despicable," and saying President Barack Obama, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and others should "get the hell out of the United States." West also likened Democratic "propaganda" to that of the Nazis.