Chuck Schumer's Recount Reversal

Dem senator no longer believes conceding defeat is 'gentlemanly thing to do'

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer / Getty Images
Sen. Chuck Schumer / Getty Images
November 14, 2018

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) says Florida's recount should go on beyond the Sunday deadline if needed, a reversal from 2006 when Schumer slammed Republicans for demanding a recount and argued conceding the election would be the "gentlemanly thing to do."

Schumer entered the recount fight between incumbent Democratic senator Bill Nelson and Republican Rick Scott on Tuesday during a joint press conference with Nelson. He argued that election supervisors "should have all the time they need" for the recount, "even if the vote count has to go beyond" the legally set Sunday deadline.

Schumer's stance on lengthy recounts was different a bit over a decade ago, when it was a Republican incumbent, former senator George Allen (Va.) considering a recount after narrowly losing his reelection bid to Democrat Jim Webb. Allen was behind Webb by less than half a percentage point, which in Virginia entitled him to a recount.

Schumer thought it would have been a bad idea.

"We believe that there are two options here," Schumer said the day after the 2006 midterms. "One is to go through a long, elaborate process, after which Jim Webb will be declared the winner, and the other is to do the right and gentlemanly thing to do and just declare Jim Webb the winner now."

Schumer put the pressure on former President George W. Bush, telling him that it would be a sign of bipartisanship if he urged Allen to concede.

"I am urging, with all due respect, the president today to urge Mr. Allen to forgo this futile recount and contestation policy, which will simply delay the inevitable, which is that Jim Webb is going to be the next senator from Virginia," he said. "There's not a better way for the president to show his desire to work in a bipartisan way than to make sure that none of these dilatory kinds of obfuscations go forward because they're not going to accomplish anything at all."

Allen declined the recount, despite the close margin.

Scott has already called out Nelson's lawyer Marc Elias for his own hypocrisy when it comes to recounts, pointing to comments made when initial vote counts had Democrats in the lead. In 2013, for example, Elias wanted a Republican to concede when his Democratic client was ahead by just 165 votes, saying recounts "do not tend to change the results." A year later, with his client up by 12,000 votes, he said recounts should only be done when there are "dozens or a few hundred votes separating the candidates."

Scott is currently leading Nelson by about 12,500 votes.

Schumer defended his call for the recount to go on without a deadline by saying things are starting to look better for Democrats each day.

"The more time that passes since Election Day, the better things keep looking for Democrats," Schumer said during his Tuesday press conference with Nelson.

Republicans are dismissing the call from Schumer, who was reelected to lead his caucus on Wednesday and says he thinks Nelson will be part of his team in January.

"Despite Schumer's nonsensical claim that victory is right around the corner, it's well past time for Nelson to hang it up and let Floridians move on from his failed reelection campaign," said Camille Gallo, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Published under: Chuck Schumer