Top Democrats Coordinate Recount Messaging in Georgia and Florida

November 16, 2018 Updated: November 16, 2018

Prominent current and former Democratic officials are sending a coordinated message about undecided races in Florida in Georgia, telling constituents and the media that the elections in the closely-watched races will be considered stolen if the Democratic candidates end up losing.

Former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton told an audience at the University of Texas at Austin on Nov. 13 that Georgia’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams would have already won her election if the race was fair.

“If she had a fair election, she already would have won,” Clinton said at the university’s Lyndon Baines Johnson school of publics affairs, where she accepted an award for public service.

Clinton is reportedly mulling a 2020 presidential bid, her third would-be attempt for the White House. During her speech, she accused “people on the other side” of attacking voting rights.

“Stacey is really in the arena and she is fighting for the right to vote and have your vote counted,” Clinton said of Abrams.

The message may have appeared noble on its face, but it promoted the idea that the Georgia election would be considered unfair if Abrams loses the state’s closely contested race for governor. Abrams has not led her Republican opponent, Brian Kemp, at any point since election night, Nov. 6., but the race remains undecided.

Ultimately, the fate of the gubernatorial election and a Georgia congressional seat may be decided in in the courts.

Abrams filed a post-election lawsuit (pdf) to change election rules to allow for absentee ballots to be counted if they have certain errors, such as missing or incorrect birthdates. If successful, her lawsuit could potentially help the Democrats win a House seat in Georgia’s 7th congressional district, where Carolyn Bourdeaux trails incumbent Republican Rep. Rob Woodall by just 500 votes.

Clinton’s message contradicts her previous election stance. Shortly before the 2016 election, she accused then-candidate Donald Trump of “threatening democracy” if he failed to accept the results of their presidential contest. Polls wrongly showed her winning decisively at the time.

“We know, in our country, the difference between leadership and dictatorship. And the peaceful transition of power is something that sets us apart,” Clinton told a crowd in Ohio three weeks before her election day defeat.

A day after Clinton’s Nov. 13 remarks, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) echoed her sentiment.

“If Stacey Abrams doesn’t win in Georgia, they stole it, it’s clear. It’s clear. I say that publicly.”

“They can’t win elections fairly,” Brown continued during a Nov. 14 speech at Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network. “We must make sure obviously that every vote is counted in Georgia and Florida and everywhere else.”

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who like Brown is rumored to run for president in 2020, also said Abrams’ election is being “stolen.”

“I think that Stacey Abrams’s election is being stolen from her, using what I think are insidious measures to disenfranchise certain groups of people,” said Booker in an interview at Yahoo Finance’s All Markets Summit on Nov. 13.

“The Justice Department should be investigating that election to make sure it was fair and the decisions that were made were not to politically advantage someone but to protect voters and the voting process,” Booker said.

Kemp was Georgia’s Secretary of State during the election–which doubles as the state’s chief elections office–until he resigned from the position last week amid the post-election controversy. No wrongdoing has been substantiated, and the Justice Department has given no indication that it will investigate Georgia’s elections.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer repeated a near identical message to those given by Clinton, Brown and Booker.

On Nov. 13, Schumer, the highest ranking Democrat in the U.S. Senate, held what Politico described as “an unusual press conference,” and said three-term incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson will win if the ongoing Florida recount is handled “fairly.”

“Republicans know that if this recount is conducted fairly and thoroughly that Sen. Nelson has an excellent chance of being reelected,” Schumer said. “If this is done fair and square, we believe Sen. Nelson has an excellent chance, a much greater than half chance of being reelected.”

As of Thursday evening, Nelson trailed Florida Gov. Rick Scott by roughly 12,000 votes—an insurmountable deficit barring judicial intervention. Nelson has filed several lawsuits aimed at extending recount deadlines, allowing late absentee ballots and changing voter intent ballot rules.

U.S. Chief Judge Mark Walker, an Obama-appointee, ruled hours before the 3 p.m. Nov. 15 machine recount deadline, that voters should have until Saturday, Nov. 17, to correct mismatched signatures on ballots, potentially awarding Nelson additional votes.

Like Clinton, Schumer has publicly called for opposition candidates to accept unfavorable results in past elections.

In 2006, while serving as the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) chairman, he called for Republicans George Allen and Conrad Burns to concede their Senate races in Virginia and Montana, respectively. Schumer said conceding was the “gentlemanly thing to do.”

President Trump called on Sen. Bill Nelson to concede on Nov. 13.

“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!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Scott claimed victory on election night and attended a photo opportunity in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 14 with GOP Senate President Mitch McConnell, alongside other newly elected Republican senators.

“A warm welcome to the incoming class of Republican Senators,” McConnell wrote on Twitter.

Nelson has not conceded as of Nov. 16.

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