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Castor-Martinez race too close to call

The Senate race between Betty Castor and Mel Martinez is too close to call.

“The race is expected to be deadlocked until tomorrow morning,” Dan McLaughlin, campaign advisor for Castor, said to a crowd of supporters in a ballroom at the Wyndamm Hotel in downtown Tampa late Tuesday night. There is approximately four tenths of a percent difference in the votes between Castor and Martinez.

If the margin of victory is one-half of 1 percent or less, local elections officials automatically must order a machine recount unless the loser says in writing that he or she doesn’t want one.

McLaughlin informed the press and supporters that Martinez had already contacted his lawyers and that Castor, in response, contacted the Washington Group Erik Klienfeild and Perkins Coie.

“We received reports throughout the afternoon and evening of voter irregularities,” said Mc Laughlin. Castors lawyers will be investigating the reports of voter complaints made in Palm Beach County, Broward County, Pinellas County, and Dade County. There were reports of removal of touch screen machines from precincts, some precincts reported not having a total number, and there were reports of voters casting ballots for Kerry but receipts printing out for Bush.

“I’m not here to give final results. I’m here to give an update and I’ve got good news,” said Castor.

Supporters, after waiting 2 hours, were excited when Castor announced that she won majority votes in Orange County and was leading in Broward, Palm Beach, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.

“It still to close to call,” said Castor at 11 p.m.

Much had not changed an hour later, after more than 70 percent of the votes were in. The automatic recount will begin tomorrow morning, including a recount of absentee ballots, McLaughlin said.

“We are still convinced the total number of gains are in her favor,” he said.

Martinez claimed victory early Wednesday in the race to replace Sen. Bob Graham. Castor’s campaign refused to concede.