It was only a week ago that Rick Scott, the Republican governor of Florida and candidate for the United States Senate, claimed on television that “rampant fraud” was perhaps imperiling his election to Congress, and that he was asking the state Department of Law Enforcement to investigate. Earlier in the day, at the Georgia State Capitol, Secretary of State Brian Kemp defended his decision to oversee an acrimonious election in which he was a candidate for governor and, by his own preliminary assessment, a victorious one. The elections in the Southeast’s two most populous states remained undecided Wednesday, more than a week after the balloting, embroiled in lawsuits and accusations. Much of the turmoil is attributable to the high-profile political prizes at stake. But some can be traced to decisions by Mr. Scott and Mr. Kemp to mix, by design or duty, their public roles with their political lives.
That two powerful Republicans helped to oversee elections in which they had overwhelming personal interests prompted bipartisan misgivings, fueled some of the sparring that has spilled into the courts and intensified the most stinging criticisms of their campaigns. Their approaches to navigating the thicket of runoffs and recounts, litigation and delayed certifications, show that there is no set playbook for candidates whose political fates are up for grabs.
“The worst thing you can do is try to force a resolution politically rather than electorally,” said Adam Goodman, a Republican political consultant who advised then-Secretary of State Katherine Harris during the Florida presidential recount in 2000. “Those who are throwing politicized brickbats into the process are doing it — and every voter — a disservice.”
By the time Mr. Kemp, Mr. Scott and their states entered the messy aftermath of Election Day, both men had been at the centers of two of the year’s most expensive and acrimonious campaigns. In Georgia, Mr. Kemp was seeking to extend the Republican Party’s 16-year grip on power by defeating Stacey Abrams, his Democratic rival who was running to become the first black woman to be elected governor of any state.