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Court Refuses Jennings’ Request to Delay Florida Appeal

As the House Administration Committee prepares for a hearing later this afternoon concerning news that the government’s review of a still-disputed Florida House election may take months longer than expected, Roll Call has learned that Democrat Christine Jennings suffered another setback last week when a Florida judge denied her request to delay her court case.

According to court documents obtained by Roll Call, a Circuit Court judge last Thursday denied Jennings’ six-week-old request to delay moving forward with her court case. Jennings must now decide whether she wants to pursue her legal appeal of her election defeat last November.

A Jennings spokesman told a Florida newspaper in May that his boss had grown tired of the court’s “glacial-like pace.” The Sarasota Herald-Tribune also reported that “Jennings would rather focus her energies on Congress, where she believes she has a better chance of overturning the November election results.”

“We’ve been waiting for four months, and nothing has happened,” Jennings spokesman David Kochman told the newspaper last month.

Rep. Vern Buchanan (R–Fla.) was seated in January to succeed ex-Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Fla.), who lost a Senate bid last November. Florida state auditors certified Buchanan’s 369-vote margin over Jennings, who continues to claim that malfunctioning voting equipment led to thousands of “undervotes,” which cost her the election.

Jennings’ legal fees have largely been paid by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and the continuation of the suit could drain precious committee resources as the 2008 elections draw nearer.

The House panel is meeting today at 3 p.m. to vote on a proposed Government Accountability Office game plan to investigate claims by Jennings and other Democrats. While Democrats hoped the GAO could wrap up its investigation in 45 days, an agency spokeswoman told Roll Call last week it could take much, much longer.

“It will probably take less than six [months],” GAO spokeswoman Nancy Kingsbury said last week.

On Thursday, Kochman downplayed the judge’s recent decision, claiming the “ruling won’t have much impact” and that Jennings’ focus continues to be on Washington, D.C.

“At this point, the case that matters most is the one in Congress — in addition to having the final authority over this matter, that’s also where the quickest resolution will be reached,” Kochman said.

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