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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 NelsonThe Hill's Morning Report - Fearing defeat, Trump claims 'illegal' ballots The Hill's Morning Report - Biden inches closer to victory Senate Democrats want to avoid Kavanaugh 2.0 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 McSallyTrump nominee's long road to Fed may be dead end McSally, staff asked to break up maskless photo op inside Capitol McSally's final floor speech: 'I gave it my all, and I left it all on the field' 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 RosenHouse Democrats introduce bill to invest 0 billion in STEM research and education Hillicon Valley: Productivity, fatigue, cybersecurity emerge as top concerns amid pandemic | Facebook critics launch alternative oversight board | Google to temporarily bar election ads after polls close Lawmakers introduce legislation to boost cybersecurity of local governments, small businesses MORE (D-Nev.) unseated Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerOn The Trail: Democrats plan to hammer Trump on Social Security, Medicare Lobbying World Democrats spend big to put Senate in play MORE, who was the only GOP senator up for reelection in a state Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonValadao unseats Cox in election rematch Trump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College Federal workers stuck it out with Trump — now, we're ready to get back to work 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 McCainThe Memo: GOP mulls its future after Trump Juan Williams: Obama's dire warnings about right-wing media Democrats' squabbling vindicates Biden non-campaign 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 DenhamBusiness groups breathe sigh of relief over prospect of divided government Ex-RNC, Trump fundraiser Elliott Broidy charged in covert lobbying scheme Bottom line MORE (R) by 1.8 percentage points.

N.J.-03: Democrat Andy Kim leads Rep. Tom MacArthurThomas (Tom) Charles MacArthurChamber-backed Democrats embrace endorsements in final stretch Republican David Richter wins NJ primary in race to challenge Rep. Andy Kim What to watch in New Jersey's primaries on Tuesday 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) LoveDemocrats lead in diversity in new Congress despite GOP gains McAdams concedes to Owens in competitive Utah district Poll: McAdams neck and neck with GOP challenger in Utah 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 WaltersFormer GOP Rep. Walters joins energy company GOP plots comeback in Orange County Crazy California an outlier? No, we are the canary in the coal mine MORE (R) leads Democrat Katie Porter by 0.4 percentage points.

Ga.-07: Rep. Rob WoodallWilliam (Rob) Robert WoodallMcCarthy guarantees GOP will take back House in 2022 Rundown of the House seats Democrats, GOP flipped on Election Day Bustos won't seek to chair DCCC again in wake of 2020 results MORE (R) leads Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux by 0.4 percentage points.

Maine-02: Rep. Bruce PoliquinBruce Lee PoliquinTrump battle with Fox News revived by Arizona projection Rep. Jared Golden wins reelection in Maine Senate control in flux as counting goes forward in key states MORE (R) leads Democrat Jared Golden by 0.7 percentage points.

N.Y.-27: Rep. Chris CollinsChristopher (Chris) Carl CollinsA Biden strategy for genuine global health security Former GOP lawmaker and Trump ally Chris Collins begins prison sentence Federal prosecutor opposes delaying prison time for former Rep. Chris Collins MORE (R) leads Democrat Nate McMurray by 1.1 percentage points.

Texas-23: Rep. Will HurdWilliam Ballard HurdHouse Hispanic Republicans welcome four new members Democrats lead in diversity in new Congress despite GOP gains Senate passes bill to secure internet-connected devices against cyber vulnerabilities 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 CochranAlabama zeroes in on Richard Shelby's future Hyde-Smith fends off challenge from Espy in Mississippi Obama endorses Espy in Mississippi Senate race 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 BidenJoe BidenBiden adds to vote margin over Trump after Milwaukee County recount Krebs says allegations of foreign interference in 2020 election 'farcical'  New DOJ rule could allow executions by electrocution, firing squad MORE and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersIn defense of incrementalism: A call for radical realism Thomas Piketty says pandemic is opportunity to address income inequality Trump will soon be out of office — but polarization isn't going anywhere 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'RourkeBeto O'RourkeMexican president breaks with other world leaders, refusing to acknowledge Biden win until election is finalized Mexico emerging as foreign policy challenge for Biden Beyoncé sports pro-Biden mask on Instagram MORE (D), a rising star who narrowly lost to Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzO'Brien on 2024 talk: 'There's all kinds of speculation out there' Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation McSally, staff asked to break up maskless photo op inside Capitol 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.