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Allen West trails in Florida but won't concede defeat

Republican U.S. Rep. Allen West speaks at a campaign stop in Boca Raton, Florida October 18, 2012. REUTERS/Joe Skipper
Republican U.S. Rep. Allen West speaks at a campaign stop in Boca Raton, Florida October 18, 2012. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

MIAMI (Reuters) - Tea Party-backed Republican Representative Allen West refused on Wednesday to concede defeat and demanded a partial recount in his re-election bid in Florida, where he trailed Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy.

West's campaign said there were still tens of thousands of absentee ballots to be counted in Palm Beach County and provisional ballots to be verified in Florida's 18th congressional district, which also includes parts of Martin and St. Lucie counties.

"This race is far from decided and there is no rush to declare an outcome. Ensuring a fair and accurate counting of all ballots is of the utmost importance," West's campaign manager, Tim Edson, said in a statement.

He called for a recount of St. Lucie County ballots, claiming West held a district-wide lead of nearly 2,000 votes until St. Lucie County conducted a recount of thousands of early ballots, leaving West behind by 2,400 votes.

"We will continue to fight to ensure every vote is counted properly and fairly, and accordingly will pursue all legal means necessary," Edson said.

Murphy, a certified public accountant, led 50.39 percent to West's 49.61 percent among ballots cast at the polling sites. Murphy was ahead by 0.78 percentage points, which was outside the 0.5 percent margin that would trigger an automatic recount under Florida rules.

Murphy held a lead of about 2,400 votes, with as many as 3,500 provisional and absentee ballots still to be counted in St. Lucie and Palm Beach counties, said Eric Johnson, a Murphy campaign advisor.

"We just don't see any way for West to make up the difference," he said.

West, a former Army lieutenant colonel, is seeking his second term in the U.S. House of Representatives, where Republicans easily held onto their majority in Tuesday's election.

West amassed one of the largest campaign war chests among House Republicans. His known supporters include organizations like Americans for Prosperity, the conservative political advocacy group funded by the billionaire Koch brothers.

Palm Beach County was one of nine populous Florida counties still counting their absentee ballots on Wednesday.

The final tally will determine whether President Barack Obama or Republican challenger Mitt Romney won Florida's 29 electoral votes.

Obama led with 49.86 percent of the vote to Romney's 49.29 percent in Florida, but the outcome will not affect the outcome of the election. Obama had 303 electoral votes, well over the 270 needed to win.

Florida, the most populous of the presidential swing states, kept the nation waiting 36 days to determine that George W. Bush had carried the state and won the U.S. presidency in 2000. It was the only state that did not have a definitive victor in the presidential race on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Kevin Gray and Jane Sutton; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Stacey Joyce)

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