- - Wednesday, November 7, 2012

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Rep. Allen B. West, a Republican, took the first steps in a legal challenge Wednesday in his closely watched re-election bid even as his Democratic opponent, Patrick Murphy, declared a razor-thin victory.

Mr. West, who has made national headlines for his fiery tea party rhetoric, filed motions asking a judge to require election 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 Mr. Murphy seized on the projections of several news organizations and declared himself the victor after a long and often vicious campaign. It was unclear what effect Mr. West’s actions could have on Mr. 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.”

Mr. 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 Mr. West held out hope for a surge of support from provisional and other outstanding ballots. That looked increasingly unlikely.

Still, Mr. West showed no signs of backing down two years after he came into office on the 2010 Republican Party 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,” Mr. Edson said. “Ensuring a fair and accurate counting of all ballots is of the utmost importance.”

WHITE HOUSE

Obama drops by to thank staff at Chicago headquarters

With the election behind him and a second term cinched, President Obama visited his Chicago campaign headquarters Wednesday afternoon to thank staff and volunteers for their hard work throughout the campaign.

As he entered the building, the office erupted in applause with aides rising to their feet to give him a standing ovation with some scrambling on top of desks to get a good look at him.

The president told the assembled foot soldiers that he derives much of his motivation and inspiration from the work they do every day and spent more than a half-hour circling the office and shaking hands.

CAMPAIGN

Kaine looks forward to payout of TV bet

Democrat Tim Kaine, who narrowly won a bruising marathon of a campaign against Republican George Allen for U.S. Senate in Virginia, said Wednesday that he is looking forward to seeing a little extra facial hair on MSNBC host Joe Scarborough — the would-be result of a rather odd bet Mr. Scarborough made recently with Obama senior adviser David Axelrod.

Mr. Axelrod, in a recent appearance on the program, said he would shave his mustache if Republican Mitt Romney carried Pennsylvania, Michigan or Minnesota. Mr. Scarborough said he would grow one if Mr. Obama carried North Carolina or Florida.

All three of Mr. Axelrod’s states fell into his boss’s column. Mr. Romney narrowly won North Carolina and Florida was too close to call early Wednesday, but Mr. Obama held a slight lead over Mr. Romney in the Sunshine State.

NEW YORK

Emergency official fired over Sandy malfeasance

ALBANY — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has fired his $153,000-a-year emergency-management director for diverting a crew to remove a tree from his Long Island home’s driveway after Superstorm Sandy hit, a state official said Wednesday.

Director of Emergency Management Steven Kuhr was fired after the governor was told that Mr. Kuhr called a Suffolk County crew to remove a fallen tree from his driveway, according to the official. Mr. Kuhr was working in Albany at the time last week, shortly after Sandy hit.

The official spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the personnel decision wasn’t announced. A spokesman for Mr. Cuomo declined to comment. The New York Times first reported the action.

Mr. Cuomo appointed Mr. Kuhr in October 2011 as executive deputy commissioner of the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services.

There was no answer at Mr. Kuhr’s office Wednesday night, and a phone number listed in his name was not working.

The action comes as Mr. Cuomo has bitterly criticized utilities for what he said has been slow progress restoring power to customers from the Hudson Valley through Long Island. Most of the power has been restored to more than 2 million customers who lost electricity because of Sandy, though lights started flickering off again Wednesday night as a new storm raked the region.

From wire dispatches and staff reports