Election Countdown: Lawsuits fly in Florida recount fight | Nelson pushes to extend deadline | Judge says Georgia county violated Civil Rights Act | Biden, Sanders lead 2020 Dem field in poll | Bloomberg to decide on 2020 by February

Election Countdown: Lawsuits fly in Florida recount fight | Nelson pushes to extend deadline | Judge says Georgia county violated Civil Rights Act | Biden, Sanders lead 2020 Dem field in poll | Bloomberg to decide on 2020 by February
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This is Election Countdown, The Hill's newsletter from Lisa Hagen (@LA_Hagen) and Max Greenwood (@KMaxGreenwood) that brings you the biggest stories on the campaign trail. We'd love to hear from you, so feel free to reach out to Lisa at LHagen@thehill.com and Max at MGreenwood@thehill.com with any questions, comments, criticisms or food recommendations (mostly the latter, please). Click here to sign up.

 

We're 721 days until the 2020 elections. But first some unfinished 2018 business...

 

The bitter recount fights in the Sunshine State just keep heating up.

Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonTrump administration renews interest in Florida offshore drilling: report Dem reps say they were denied access to immigrant detention center Ex-House Intel chair: Intel panel is wrong forum to investigate Trump's finances MORE's (D-Fla.) campaign filed its latest lawsuit on Tuesday, asking a federal judge to ensure that unconventionally marked ballots be counted, so long as the voter's intent is clear. At the center of the lawsuit is whether ballots where candidate selections are marked in different ways should be added to the final vote tally. A ruling in that case carries high stakes; it could determine whether numerous ballots are counted or thrown out.

 

Meanwhile, the legal team of Gov. Rick Scott (R), Nelson's challenger, temporarily withdrew a lawsuit in Palm Beach that sought to force the county sheriff's office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to secure and impound voting equipment while it's not in use. The voluntary dismissal came after Circuit Judge Krista Marx said that she does not have the authority to force the sheriff to act, because he's not a party in the lawsuit. "If [the sheriff] chooses to sit with the parties and hammer out some kind of agreement with regard to what he is willing to do ... then I will be happy to sign that," she said.

 

In the closely watched recount battle for Florida governor, Barry Richard, the lead elections lawyer for Democrat Andrew Gillum, is raising the prospect of a lawsuit. In an appearance on MSNBC on Monday, Richard said that Gillum's team has received "an increasing amount of evidence that Florida's effort to make the statutes more efficient has been done at the sacrifice of the fundamental right to vote." It wasn't immediately clear what statutes a potential lawsuit could challenge. Nelson is suing to overturn a law that bars absentee ballots received after polls close on Election Day from being counted.

 

The lawsuits don't stop there. Common Cause and the League of Women Voters are asking a federal court to force Scott to recuse himself from any role in recounting or certifying the results of the state's ultra-close Senate race. Scott has repeatedly suggested in recent days that widespread elections fraud, particularly in Democratic-heavy South Florida, is responsible for triggering the recount and is accusing Democrats of trying to "steal" the election.

 

Also on Monday, a Broward County judge rejected Scott's request to "impound and secure" all voting machines, ballots and tabulating equipment in county election headquarters when they're not in use. Instead, Circuit Judge Jack Tuter agreed to add three sheriff's deputies to the current lineup of law enforcement officers monitoring the recount. Tuter said there needs to be "an additional layer of confidence" in the recount process, but also urged both Democrats and Republicans to tone down their rhetoric.

 

Meanwhile, a judge ruled on Tuesday to gran an extension for recounts in Palm Beach County, according to the Palm Beach Post. The original deadline was Thursday at 3 p.m., but now the county will have until Nov. 20--which is also the deadline for certification of election results. Palm Beach County is one of the counties at the center of the recount fight.

 

Senate showdown

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D) defeated Rep. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyGOP Senate campaign arm hits battleground-state Dems over 'Medicare for All,' Green New Deal Senate Republicans tested on Trump support after Mueller Trump gives nod to vulnerable GOP Sen. McSally with bill signing MORE (R) in Arizona's marquee Senate race, handing Democrats a major victory six full days after Election Day. Sinema led by a margin of 38,197 votes, or about 1.7 percentage points, out of more than 2.1 million votes cast, when the Associated Press called the race on Monday.

Sinema, who will become Arizona's first female senator, is the first Democrat to win a Senate seat in the state since 1988. Her victory comes two years after Trump carried Arizona in 2016, but by less than 5 points, a closer margin than previous GOP presidential nominees.

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Apart from Arizona, Nevada is the only other Senate seat that Democrats picked up this cycle. Rep. Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenHillicon Valley — Presented by CTIA and America's wireless industry — Prosecutors used FISA warrant to get info on Huawei | Study finds discrimination in Facebook ads | Bezos retains voting control over ex-wife's Amazon stocks More than 30 Senate Dems ask Trump to reconsider Central American aid cuts Dem senators introduce bill to combat sexual harassment in STEM MORE (D-Nev.) unseated Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerTrump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary Oregon Dem top recipient of 2018 marijuana industry money, study finds MORE, who was the only GOP senator up for reelection in a state Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonForget the spin: Five unrefuted Mueller Report revelations Former senators launching effort to help Dems win rural votes Biden's announcement was a general election message, says political analyst MORE carried in 2016.

In her victory speech Monday night, Sinema repeatedly called for bipartisanship and ending partisan gridlock, invoking the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainBiden's sloppy launch may cost him Cindy McCain weighs in on Biden report: 'No intention' of getting involved in race Why did Mueller allow his investigation to continue for two years? MORE (R-Ariz.) as an example for achieving that.

"[McCain's] example shines a light on our way forward," Sinema said. "Sen. John McCain stood for everything we stand for as Arizonans: fighting for what you believe in, standing up for what's right even if you stand alone, and serving a cause that's greater than oneself."

 

House races

Uncalled races that lean Dem:

Calif.-10: Democrat Josh Harder leads Rep. Jeff DenhamJeffrey (Jeff) John DenhamCrazy California an outlier? No, we are the canary in the coal mine Polling editor says news outlets should be more cautious calling elections Rep. Valadao officially concedes in California race MORE (R) by 1.8 percentage points.

N.J.-03: Democrat Andy Kim leads Rep. Tom MacArthurThomas (Tom) Charles MacArthurThe 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority 10 things we learned from the midterms New Jersey New Members 2019 MORE (R) by 1.1 percentage points.

N.Y.-22: Democrat Anthony Brindisi leads Rep. Claudia Tenney by 0.6 percentage points.

Utah-04: Democrat Ben McAdams leads Rep. Mia LoveLudmya (Mia) LoveThe 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority Juan Williams: Racial shifts spark fury in Trump and his base Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign MORE by 2.4 percentage points.

 

Uncalled races that lean Republican:

Calif.-39: Republican Young Kim leads Democrat Gil Cisneros by 1.2 percentage points.

Calif.-45: Rep. Mimi WaltersMarian (Mimi) Elaine WaltersGOP plots comeback in Orange County Crazy California an outlier? No, we are the canary in the coal mine Ryan casts doubt on 'bizarre' California election results MORE (R) leads Democrat Katie Porter by 0.4 percentage points.

Ga.-07: Rep. Rob WoodallWilliam (Rob) Robert WoodallLatino group urges state lawmaker to make primary challenge to Democrat for Georgia House seat House Budget Republican says Dems request of Trump tax returns is attempt 'to weaponize' tax code GOP lawmaker predicts a Reagan-like immigration bill will land on Trump's desk MORE (R) leads Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux by 0.4 percentage points.

Maine-02: Rep. Bruce PoliquinBruce Lee PoliquinMaking the case for ranked-choice voting The 31 Trump districts that will determine the next House majority Maine governor certifies Dem's win in disputed House race, but calls it 'stolen election' MORE (R) leads Democrat Jared Golden by 0.7 percentage points.

N.Y.-27: Rep. Chris CollinsChristopher (Chris) Carl CollinsFEC filing: No individuals donated to indicted GOP rep this cycle McCarthy holds courtesy meeting with ex-Rep. Grimm Seven Republicans vote against naming post office after ex-Rep. Louise Slaughter MORE (R) leads Democrat Nate McMurray by 1.1 percentage points.

Texas-23: Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdFreshman House Dems surge past GOP in money race DCCC opens Texas office to protect House pickups, target vulnerable GOP seats Dems ramp up subpoena threats MORE (R) leads Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones by 0.5 percentage points.

 

State watch

A federal judge is ordering officials in Georgia to publicize whether provisional ballots were counted and, if they weren't, to explain why not. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg also says that officials must not certify the results of the elections in Georgia before 5 p.m. Friday – a day before a state-mandated deadline on Tuesday, Nov. 20. Georgians are still awaiting the final results of the state's hotly contested governor's race. Republican Brian Kemp currently holds the lead in that contest, but Democrat Stacey Abrams is hoping that late-breaking vote counts will be enough to force the race into a runoff.

"The rulings from last night and this morning were wins for Georgians' fundamental right -- the right to cast a ballot," Abrams campaign manager Lauren Groh-Wargo said in a Tuesday statement. "Given the confusion sowed by the Secretary of State's office last week and the number of voters who experienced irregularities regarding their registration status, these victories were necessary steps in the fight to count every eligible vote in Georgia."

 

Also in Georgia, another federal judge ruled on Monday that Gwinnett County violated the Civil Rights Act by rejecting absentee ballots solely on the basis of incorrect or missing birth years.

 

Mississippi runoff

After facing major backlash, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) on Monday declined to answer multiple questions about her controversial comments where she joked about being "on the front row" if she were invited by a supporter to "a public hanging."

Hyde-Smith appeared at a news conference with GOP Gov. Phil Bryant to announce an endorsement from an anti-abortion rights group. When asked by a reporter about the comments, the GOP senator declined to elaborate.

"We put out a statement yesterday and we stand by the statement," Hyde-Smith said.

Hyde-Smith faces Democratic opponent Mike Espy, who would be the first black U.S. senator from Mississippi since 1881. The two will square off in a Nov. 27 runoff since neither was able to clear the 50-percent threshold to avoid a runoff in last Tuesday's special election. The winner will serve out the remaining two years of former Sen. Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranTop 5 races to watch in 2019 Bottom Line Races Dems narrowly lost show party needs to return to Howard Dean’s 50 state strategy MORE's (R-Miss.) term.

 

National Republicans are starting to get involved in the race. The independent expenditure arm of the National Republican Senatorial Committee is going up on TV starting on Thursday.

Both campaigns will be up on the air on Wednesday. Espy’s campaign placed his first TV buy in the runoff that will begin on Wednesday. Hyde-Smith and allies have also been airing ads since after last week's elections.

 

2020 vision

Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D), who's considering a 2020 run, criticized former President Obama, his ally and friend, for being too eager to compromise with Republicans.

"Rahm's response was that the president wants the first bill that he signs to be bipartisan, and that was the price," Patrick told the New Yorker in an interview, referring to Rahm Emanuel, who was Obama's first chief of staff. "That was the deal, and then not a single Republican voted for it."

"And I remember saying, 'Let this be a lesson,'" he continued. "'This is how it's going to go. Don't forget your experience on the South Side. Don't be a chump.' I didn't say that to [Obama] -- this was to his team."

 

In a Morning Consult-Politico poll, former Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenElection analyst says Biden could face uphill battle attracting small-dollar donors Biden's announcement was a general election message, says political analyst Gillibrand 'not worried' about being 'discounted' in 2020 race MORE and Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersElection analyst says Biden could face uphill battle attracting small-dollar donors Gillibrand 'not worried' about being 'discounted' in 2020 race Biden's sloppy launch may cost him MORE (I-Vt.) are the top two contenders for president in 2020 among Democratic voters. Biden got about 26 percent, while Sanders was at 19 percent. No other potential nominee polled in the double digits, though 21 percent said they didn't know or had no opinion. Rep. Beto O'RourkeRobert (Beto) Francis O'RourkeCory Booker releases 10 years of tax returns Buttigieg gets first congressional endorsement O'Rourke to give commencement address at Texas's oldest black college MORE (D), a rising star who narrowly lost to Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzO'Rourke to give commencement address at Texas's oldest black college Cornyn campaign, Patton Oswalt trade jabs over comedian's support for Senate candidate MJ Hegar announces Texas Senate bid MORE (R-Texas), came in third at 8 percent.

 

Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire and former mayor of New York, said he plans to decide by January or February whether he will run for president in 2020.

"I think January, February would be about as late as you can do it and as early as you can gather enough information," he told the Associated Press in an interview published Tuesday. The Hill's Michael Burke has more here.

 

Odds and ends

Midterm turnout was at its highest level in 104 years, according to an analysis first obtained by Axios. A little more than 49 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot in the 2018 elections. The last time more people turned out in a midterm was in 1914, which was when 50.4 percent of eligible voters went to the polls.