TALLAHASSEE -- In what is likely to be the closest outcome of any legislative race this season, Miami Gardens Rep. Barbara Watson edged out North Miami Beach Rep. John Patrick Julien in the contest for House District 107 by a narrow 13 votes, according to a manual recount by Miami Dade County officials.
That was Saturday.
On Monday, Julien did not concede the election. Instead, he claimed election fraud.
Julien went to the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office Monday with what he called evidence of a third boletero submitting hundreds of absentee ballots on election day, according to Miami Herald news partner CBS-4.
Absentee voting has come under increased scrutiny in recent weeks, as police and prosecutors pursue a vote-fraud probe that has led to the arrest of two Hialeah boleteros, or ballot-brokers, accused of collecting absentee ballots from voters and in some cases fraudulently manipulating the votes. Absentee ballots accounted for more than one-third of all the ballots cast in Miami-Dade County.
Julien told CBS4 said the woman, whose business card boasts she is the “Queen of Absentee Ballots,” approached him wanting “thousands of dollars” to deliver the absentee vote. He told her he wasn’t interested.
Watson and Julien, both freshmen Democrats, were drawn into the same district during the painful redistricting process last session that pitted a handful of incumbents into the same districts because of new redistricting rules.
Watson’s victory came despite Julien’s nearly three-to-one fundraising advantage. Watson, a former vice mayor of Miami Gardens and a member of the city council, raised and spent about $30,000 while Julien, a former member of the North Miami Beach city council raised nearly $107,000 and spent $82,000 by the last report.
The Watson-Julien match-up was only one of three recounts ordered by the Florida Division of Elections last week.
Watson faces two write-in candidates in the November general election.
A recount report filed by the Miami Dade Division of Elections late Saturday and posted on the county web site Sunday, showed that Watson received 50.06 percent of the 10,551 votes cast, or 5,282 votes, while Julien won 5,269 votes or 49.94 percent.
Both candidates relied on absentee voters for nearly one fifth of their total. There were 1,111 absentee ballots cast for Watson and 1,037 for Julien.