Mack Bernard likely to challenge 17-vote loss in courtby Andrew Abramson | August 29th, 2012
Mack Bernard, coming off an oh-so-close 17-vote loss to Jeff Clemens in this month’s State Senate 27 race, will likely challenge the result in court.
Juan-Carlos Planas, a former Republican state legislator and an attorney representing Bernard, said a challenge will likely be filed today or Thursday.
“You want to get it right, especially when people’s votes are on the line,” Planas said.
Planas said he could “neither confirm nor deny” sources who said Bernard has been getting affidavits from absentee ballot voters whose ballots were challenged. It could be enough to overcome Clemens’ 17 vote advantage. Planas said it will all be included in the challenge.
By state law, a campaign only has two grounds for challenge — either votes that should have been counted were not counted, or votes that shouldn’t have been counted were counted.
Bernard has until Tuesday to file a challenge, but Planas said he would like to have the challenge filed this week.
The likelihood of a challenge is angering the state’s Democratic establishment. Clemens and Bernard are both Democratic state representatives, but without a Republican in the race, much of the Republican and business community support went to Bernard.
Clemens did not immediately return a call for comment. Kevin Cate, a spokesman for Clemens’ campaign, said, “Republicans spent close to half a million dollars meddling in this Democratic state senate primary, and it looks like they’re still pushing for the results to be contested. … Democrats are urging Mack Bernard to start looking toward the future as to how he can best serve Florida going forward.”
Florida Democratic Party Executive Director Scott Arceneaux said in an e-mail, “The votes in this race have been counted, re-counted and then counted again by hand. The election has been certified and we again congratulate Senator-elect Jeff Clemens on this hard fought victory. This was a close election, but one in which the process worked thanks to the hard work and dedication of the Palm Beach County SOE. It is time we turned our focus and attention to November 6.”
Clemens initially won the race by 34 votes out of more than 24,000 votes cast. A recount then showed Clemens with a 17-vote win.
The winner of the primary will not technically win the seat until November. Clemens (or Bernard, if he wins in court) will face a write-in candidate in November.