The Washington Times - November 20, 2012, 06:54AM

Rep. Allen West on Tuesday conceded he has lost his bid for re-election to Congress, saying that while questions about the vote count remained, he was unlikely to close the gap between him and Patrick Murphy, his Democratic challenger.

His concession came hours before the state was to certify the results in the race, and heads off what was shaping up to be a costly legal battle.

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Saying he still had questions about St. Lucie and Palm Beach County vote tallies, Mr. West said that there weren’t enough contested ballots to make up the gap with Mr. Murphy, who led by more than 1,900 votes in the preliminary tally and 2,000 votes if a partial recount was considered.

“While a contest of the election results might have changed the vote totals, we do not have evidence that the outcome would change,” Mr. West said in a statement to news outlets. “Given the extremely high evidentiary hurdles involved in a successful challenge, I will not ask my generous supporters to help fund a drawn-out, expensive legal effort with little chance of success. Therefore, we will not contest the certification or challenge the seating of Congressman-Elect Murphy.

In an email to supporters Mr. Murphy called the concession “gracious” and said he’ll continue the preparations he’s already begun making to be ready to take the seat Jan. 3, when the next Congress is sworn in.

“I campaigned on a message that reaching across the aisle is as important in this district as it is in Washington,” he said. “To those who supported my opponent, my door is open and I want to hear your voice.”

Mr. West won his seat in the 2010 tea party wave that powered Republicans to control of the House and was one of two black Republicans to win seats that year.

The former Army officer was a tea party favorite and made his mark in the House immediately by questioning Republican leaders’ decision to schedule more time for lawmakers to be back in their home districts and less time for them to be in Washington.

His 2012 campaign was one of the most-watched House races in the country, and also one of the harshest. He and Mr. Murphy traded barbs over each other’s run-ins with higher authorities, and questioned each other’s fitness to serve.

Both sides had been raising cash for a protracted legal battle, but Mr. West’s decision heads that off.

He had been protesting the vote count in St. Lucie County in particular, where officials admitted they bungled the count of early-voting ballots and have now conducted two separate recounts.

Still, the tally as of Tuesday morning left Mr. West more than a half percentage-point behind Mr. Murphy, and he acknowledged that gap was unlikely to close enough even with a full recount of all precincts spread across three counties.