Florida governor Rick Scott was welcomed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as a member of the incoming GOP Senators despite the Florida midterms not being finalized yet.
Scott was locked in a tight race with Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) for Nelson’s Senate seat. The first round of votes showed Scott leading by 12,562 votes, or 0.15 percent. Because his margin was under 0.5 percentage points, a machine recount was ordered by Florida’s secretary of state per state law.
The recount results are required to be presented by 3 p.m. on Nov. 15. If the margin of the machine recount results is also under 0.25 percentage points, a hand recount will take place.
Scott has maintained that he won the race, noting his margin would likely not be overcome in a recount. He also accused Nelson of trying to steal the election, noting that Nelson’s lawyer asked for a noncitizen’s vote to count.
A warm welcome to the incoming class of Republican Senators. pic.twitter.com/yNcqWvX0qp
— Leader McConnell (@senatemajldr) November 14, 2018
Nelson, meanwhile, filed a federal lawsuit (pdf) to extend the deadline, claiming that counties don’t have adequate time to finish the recount before Thursday. He was also on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, appearing at a press conference with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
“Republicans know that if this recount is conducted fairly and thoroughly that Sen. Nelson has an excellent chance of being reelected,” Schumer told reporters. Scott adviser Gail Gitcho told Fox News that the press conference was “bizarre.”
“I wouldn’t even call that a press conference, it was more like a hostage situation with Bill Nelson making a weird statement and then Chuck Schumer shuffling him off the stage,” she said.
President Donald Trump via Twitter sided with Scott on Nov. 12: “The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged. An honest vote count is no longer possible-ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night!”
On Nov. 13, Trump added, “When will Bill Nelson concede in Florida? The characters running Broward and Palm Beach voting will not be able to ‘find’ enough votes, too much spotlight on them now!”
When will Bill Nelson concede in Florida? The characters running Broward and Palm Beach voting will not be able to “find” enough votes, too much spotlight on them now!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 13, 2018
Florida has been plagued with reports of election fraud, with ballot boxes showing up in odd places and some county supervisors violating the state’s Constitution and admittedly mixing in illegal ballots, leading Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi to launch a criminal investigation.
Along with Scott, McConnell welcomed Senator elects Rep. Marsha Blackburn (Tennessee), Mitt Romney (Utah), Josh Hawley (Missouri), Kevin Cramer (North Dakota), and Mike Braun (Indiana).