2018 election Archives - Page 2 of 157 - Florida Politics

Will Bill Nelson win? His attorney says that’s what Rick Scott must think

“Don’t just listen to me, listen to Republican Gov. Rick Scott

That’s what Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson‘s attorney said Friday morning when asked why he appeared so confident Nelson would eventually win Florida’s contested U.S. Senate election if it goes to a recount.

“I do think that his, the tone and tenor of his behavior last night is not suggestive of any campaign that believes it is winning. So if you want to know why I think this race is tightening, look at the behavior of your Governor. He had a hastily called press conference. He himself said that as ballots are being counted it is tightening,” Marc Elias, lead recount attorney for Nelson’s campaign said during a telephone news conference Friday morning.

“And then he made some veiled threat or suggestion that he was going to somehow involve law enforcement. This is not a third-world dictatorship,” he added.

The latter comment was part of the back-and-forth between the Scott and Nelson campaigns as both now are seeking legal actions in the U.S. Senate election, and both counter-charged each other with doing so to thwart voters’ will.

Scott said he was getting law enforcement to investigate voting issues, and Elias said that was not appropriate in an election in which Scott stands, and that Nelson’s campaign would challenge such action in court. Elias said Nelson’s campaign was suing to stop signature comparisons by untrained poll workers, and Scott’s campaign charged that was an effort to count fraudulent ballots.

The legal efforts and counter-accusations come as the contest remains tight. The latest numbers from the Florida Division of Elections show the vote spread right around 15,000 votes, with Scott leading, out of 8.17 million votes. At that rate, a difference of 0.18 percent, the election would qualify for a hand recount next week.

In Nelson’s case, Elias announced the campaign was filing suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida to contest the Florida law and practice of letting non-experts in canvassing boards and Supervisors of Elections offices compare voter signatures on provisional and mail-in ballots to see if they match, to determine if the votes should be counted.

Elias said the practice leads to a “complete lack of uniformity” in how ballots are judged. He contended that studies show such practice is more likely to throw out valid signatures than to prevent fraudulent votes. The lawsuit seeks to end the practice, and cited four cases in which federal judges have stayed such practices.

Scott’s campaign countered with accusations that Nelson’s lawsuit is all about allowing for the counting of fraudulent votes.

“With today’s filing, their desperation has driven them to ask the federal courts to allow voter fraud,” Jackie Schutz Zeckman, Scott’s campaign manager, declared in a written statement issued before Elias’ press conference. “They are asking courts to overrule election officials and accept ballots that were not legally cast.”

Schutz Zeckman also alluded to the mystery of tens of thousands of ballots being discovered in Broward and Palm Beach counties after Election Day, a matter that is not addressed in Nelson’s federal lawsuit. She argued those ballots should not be counted.

“They aim to disenfranchise law-abiding Florida voters by producing ballots out of thin air until they have enough to win. We will not allow them to steal this election. Every vote that was legally and verifiably cast prior to the polls closing at 7 p.m. on Tuesday should, of course, be counted. Any votes that mysteriously showed up after that deadline are invalid,” she added.

Elias said those ballots were lawfully cast and must be counted on behalf of the voters who cast them. He charged Scott with acting inappropriately by asking the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate.

“It is not appropriate for the Governor of any state to suggest that he is going to use the powers of the state as Governor to interject his law enforcement authority to prevent the counting of ballots that have been lawfully cast, especially in an election in which he stands,” Elias said.

“It is highly inappropriate and I can assure you we will take all the necessary steps in court to make sure that Sen. Nelson’s interests are protected if that were to come to pass.”

Gibson Dunn firm joining Rick Scott’s U.S. Senate election battle

Republicans have retained the California-based law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, veterans of Florida’s Bush v. Gore presidential recount battle of 2000, to come to the legal aid of Gov. Rick Scott‘s U.S. Senate election effort, which appears to be heading toward a recount.

The law firm has been retained by the National Republican Senatorial Committee on Scott’s behalf, as his vote lead over Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson continues to tighten, with the election heading toward probable statewide recounts of ballots next week.

First up, the firm will be challenging the federal lawsuit Nelson’s attorneys filed Friday in U.S. District Court for Florida’s Northern District. Nelson is seeking to stay the practice of ballots being thrown out because poll workers — of unknown training, according to Nelson’s suit — conclude the signatures don’t match those on file.

“They are now attempting to commit voter fraud right out in public,” Rick Scott For Florida Campaign Manager Jackie Schutz Zeckman stated in a news release announcing the Gibson Dunn representation. “And our expert team of lawyers will be fighting this in court because Rick Scott is Florida’s next U.S. Senator.”

The U.S. Senate election vote tallies now have Scott leading by about 15,000 votes out of 8.17 million cast. That’s a difference of 0.18 percent of the vote, well below the 0.25 percent threshold that would mandate a hand recount under Florida law.

Specifically, Gibson Dunn partners Helgi Walker, out of the firm’s Washington, D.C., office; and Thomas Dupree Jr., co-partner-in-charge of the Washington office, will represent the Scott campaign.

Walker is co-chair of the firm’s Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice Group and a member of the Appellate and Constitutional Law Group. Dupree is a former U.S. deputy assistant attorney general in the administration of President George W. Bush, and is a member of the firm’s litigation department and its Appellate and Constitutional Law practice group.

Nelson is going with Marc Elias, head of political law practice at Perkins Cole in Washington. He is former general counsel to the Hillary Clinton campaign and a longtime elections lawyer.

Rick Scott

Rick Scott on Sean Hannity show: ‘They’re going to find as many votes as it takes’

In a Fox News interview Thursday night, Gov. Rick Scott doubled-down on his claim that Broward and Palm Beach counties’ supervisors of elections are mysteriously finding votes in a conspiratorial effort to re-elect his opponent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

“They found 78,000 new votes since Election Day, two days ago in Broward County, and 15,000 more votes in Palm Beach. We don’t know how many more votes they’re going to come up with. But it sure appears they’re going to find as many votes as it takes to try to win this election,” Scott told Sean Hannity during his show on Fox News Thursday night.

Scott repeated his contention, made last night on the steps of the Florida Governor’s Mansion, that he has asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the vote counting in his election for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat, and that he has filed suits against Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes and Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher, contending they are withholding crucial voter information and blocking access to their offices.

As of 9:30 a.m. Friday Scott held a 15,068 vote lead over Nelson. That’s a 0.18 percent difference, below the threshold to automatically trigger a hand recount of the 8.17 million ballots in the Senate race.

Nelson’s campaign attorney Marc Elias — whom Scott and Hannity denigrated as a political hack seeking to steal the election — called a 10:30 news conference to discuss what Nelson’s campaign described in an advisory as Scott’s “abuse of office and unethical actions last night aimed at interrupting and stopping Florida’s ongoing vote count.”

“We won. I’m going to be the U.S. Senator. I’m going to fight this all the way. We’re going to do everything we can. We’re going to look at every legal remedy we can exercise. We’re going to fight this and we’re going to win this,” Scott said on Hannity.

Bill Nelson-Rick Scott U.S. Senate contest now in hand recount range

The U.S. Senate election’s numbers have tightened to the point that the question of who won — Republican Gov. Rick Scott or Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson — apparently now will go to a mandatory hand recount of all 8.1 million ballots, according to updates posted late Thursday by the Florida Secretary of State.

Scott’s lead was 15,175 votes statewide as of 7:30 p.m. Thursday. That’s down from more than 60,000 two days ago that separated the two.

Under Florida law, a recount by hand is required when the difference reaches one-quarter of 1 percent of the vote, or about 20,413 ballots in this contest.

If the contest’s spread remains below that level, the hand recount would be announced on Saturday by Secretary of State Ken Detzner, and hand recounting would start on Monday and run through Nov. 18.

It’s not clear, however, that that many ballots could be recounted by hand in that relatively short a time.

If the difference falls between that and about 40,426, then Detzner would order a machine recount of the ballots. That also would start Monday and would have to be finished by next Thursday.

There still are more ballots to be counted, including provisional ballots and other ballots that were set aside because of anomalies on Tuesday. They are now being counted by the election canvassing boards in each of Florida’s 67 counties.

Historically, more mistakes are found during a hand recount, as opposed to a machine recount and, therefore, can more quickly change the total vote tally in a race, Nelson’s campaign is contending. Given the trend of newly discovered votes leaning in Nelson’s favor, a hand recount could soon put Nelson ahead in the race, his campaign predicted.

Anna Eskamani’s fame is rising – in Iran

Democratic state Rep.-elect Anna Eskamani has been no stranger to national media coverage throughout her campaign, and now her election in House District 47 Tuesday also is drawing attention of Iranian media and international media broadcasting into Iran.

Eskamani, of Orlando, had been open throughout her campaign about her Iranian-American heritage, even working it into a campaign TV commercial, paying tribute to her Iranian-immigrant parents. Once elected, she pointed with pride to becoming the first Iranian-American elected official in Florida, and one of only a small handful across the United States.

Now she’s become a hot get for Iranian media, starting Tuesday night while she was still celebrating her victory over Republican Stockton Reeves. She’s done a half-dozen or so interviews since with Iranian media plus a live interview Wednesday on BBC News Persian, and another Thursday with Public Radio International, both broadcast into Iran and to Iranians living worldwide.

It seems people in Iran want to know, as she said one Iranian news medium headlined its story: “Who is this Persian girl, Anna Eskamani?”

“The love and support from the Iranian people has been incredible,” she said. “Actually, our website yesterday afternoon, I was told we received thousands of website visits, over 500 specifically from Iran. I think that for whatever reason the people of Iran have really been inspired by our story. … They see me as a fighter for rights here in Florida.”

Eskamani speaks and understands Farsi, but not well enough to be comfortable talking about politics, so she’s been giving her interviews in English.

A common line of inquiry from Iranian media, she said, comes from surprise that an American politician would be open about her Iranian roots, as many in Iran assume that would be a huge handicap in front of American voters, especially in a district that doesn’t have any significant Iranian-American population. That became an issue only briefly when a push-pollster started asking voters in September if they could vote for Eskamani if they knew she was Iranian. Reeves denied any connection to the poll and disavowed it, and it quickly went away as anyone’s issue.

Eskamani said she’s telling Iranian media that she’s turned her Iranian heritage into a more universal message about being the daughter of hard-working immigrants seeking to make better lives in America for their children, a message she said plays well with women back in Iran.

Eskamani is very conscious of the fights for human rights inside Iran, particularly by women, and has written graduate-level college research papers on it.

If there is a respect and admiration, it is mutual.

One interviewer asked her, “What message do you send to Iranian women and girls who find you to be an inspiration?”

“I told them that, ‘You inspire me, with your struggle, and the environment you have to navigate. It reminds me not to take anything for granted,'” she said.

“In my veins there are women who are fighting across this world for their rights, and so this reminds me I have to stay strong and continue to advocate for those issues that affect women and girls here in Florida, and knowing I’m not alone in those efforts,” she said. “There are women on the other side of the world who are doing the same under different circumstances.”

She recognizes that some of the things she’s said for broadcast or publication in Iran could have cost her. Eskamani has family in Iran, whom she and her sister and brother sometimes go to visit.

“I know there are Iranians my age who never want to get involved in politics because if they do they can never go back to Iran. To some degree I might have put myself in that place already,” Eskamani said. “But for me, I think it’s worth it to be an advocate on these issues, because people need an advocate.”

Photo is a screen shot from BBC News Persian


Ruth's List

Ruth’s List Florida dubs run-of-the-mill results “historic victories”

Most Florida Democrats woke up consumed by what went wrong on Election Day. Another nil for five performance in statewide races, and a one for six performance in the state Senate, assuming current margins hold.

But Ruth’s List Florida was more than a little cheery with an email celebrating its “historic victories” on Tuesday.

Their reasoning, in their own words: “Of the 42 women endorsed this election cycle by Ruth’s List Florida, the only organization in the state that recruits, trains and supports progressive women in their runs for office, 28 won their races. Of the 28 victories, 19 were red-to-blue flipped seats.”

So, 28 out of 42, or two out of three, or, if preferred, a D minus.

There is that ubiquitous song about how “two out of three ain’t bad.” Historic, though? Meh.

Don’t tell Pamela Goodman that, though.

“Ruth’s List is thrilled with these results,” she said. “Floridians are clearly ready to fight for a clean environment, a fully funded public education system and the health care we all deserve. And our wins in the down ballot races show that we are building a strong bench for the future of Florida.”

The two state Senate winners: House Minority Leader Janet Cruz in SD 18 (maybe) and current Sen. Annette Taddeo in SD 40 (a push).

The state House winners: Incumbent Democratic Reps. Amy Mercado (73-17, yawn) and Margaret Good (getting warmer) and Delores Johnson (okay) and Dotie Joseph (92-8, yawn), who took over Democratic held seats.

The flippers: Geraldine Thompson, Joy Goff Marcil, Anna Eskamani, Fentrice Driskell, Jennifer Webb and Cindy Polo. Those six wins are indeed something to celebrate. Ruth’s List deserves a pat on the back for those.

“Ruth’s List has invested years recruiting and training Democratic pro-choice women to seek and serve in local office,” Goodman said. “Tonight, we helped to elect a record number of women up and down the ballot all across the state. We are building the bench of the next generation of leaders in Florida.”

But what about the L-O-S-E-R-S?

The org went two for five in the state Senate and 10 for 17 in the state House, and its doing some Russell Westbrook-level stats padding by counting wins on the Mt. Dora City Commission — no offence, Commissioner Elect Crissy Stile, you earned it.

And then there’s Democratic Ag Commissioner nominee Niki Fried, the first woman candidate the Democratic party has fielded in a statewide race since former CFO Alex Sink, a co-founder of Ruth’s List. They were all about celebrating her easy primary election win, and If the org had carried the first Democratic member of the Cabinet in 8 years across the finish line, that would be a “historic victory.”

There’s still a chance that could happen. Fried is headed toward a recount in the Cabinet contest between her and Republican Rep. Matt Caldwell, and as of Wednesday night only 8,139 votes (0.10 percent) separate them out of more than 8 million cast.

If she pulls it off, that would be the time to blast out the internal brag board.

Epilogue: Pete Nehr’s stock manages to sink further

How the mighty have fallen.

Pete Nehr, something of a big deal a decade ago, started his political career on the Tarpon Springs City Commission in the early aughts, before breaking into state-level politics with a 2-point win over former Democratic Rep. Carl Zimmerman in 2006.

The Tarpon Springs Republican successfully defended that seat a couple times, notching another 2-point win over Zimmerman in 2008 and routing Democrat Tim McKone by 23 points in 2010. He lost his seat two years later, however, after redistricting created a more favorable district for Zimmerman’s comeback bid.

Since then, the Austrian immigrant has racked up a couple borderline embarrassing losses.

His 2014 Pinellas County Commission bid saw him take second place in the Republican Primary won by eventual Commissioner Dave Eggers.

Today? It’s unclear if Nehr could even make a successful run for dog catcher.

One of the deep cuts on the Tuesday ballot was the East Lake Tarpon Special Fire District Board, in which the top two of four candidates win the job.

Out of the four candidates in the mix, incumbent Tom “Steve” McQueen, McKone, Maryellen Crowder and himself, he finished dead last.

But dead last doesn’t do it justice. McQueen won the race with 38 percent of the vote, and Nehr was only able to muster a third of that. If McKone has a vindictive bone in his body, it just got excised — 8 years after he got blown out in the House race, he came out 14 points ahead of Nehr to earn the second of two spots.

The No. 3 finisher, Crowder, doubled Nehr.

The takeaway for Nehr, if he wants one, is that he’s rarely anybody’s first pick and he’s rarely their second, either.

HD 26, HD 89 recounts to decide final split in Florida House

Tuesday’s top-of-ticket results didn’t give Florida Democrats much reason to cheer, but incoming House Minority Leader Kionne McGhee says the party made decent inroads into the GOP’s intractable advantage in the state House.

The victories highlighted: Joy Goff-Marcil in HD 30, Geraldine Thompson in HD 44, Anna Eskamani in HD 47, Adam Hattersley in HD 59, Fentrice Driskell in HD 63, Jennifer Webb in HD 69, Delores Hogan Johnson in HD 84 and Cindy Polo in HD 103.

Eskamani, Hattersley, Webb, Johnson and Polo all won open seats previously controlled by the GOP, while Goff-Marcil reclaimed HD 30 from Republican Bob Cortes, Thompson knocked out Republican Robert “Bobby O” Olszewski just 13 months after he won the seat in a special election and Driskell cruised by Republican Shawn Harrison with a 6-point win.

“With nearly 10 new Democratic members in the Florida House of Representatives, this string of midterm victories, following this year’s special election wins, shows that voters are looking for leaders that reflect their values,” McGhee said. “This cycle, Florida House Democrats competed in 90 percent of Florida’s state House districts and made gains against the odds. I look forward to working alongside this new class of talented and diverse leaders in Tallahassee.”

While eight isn’t bad, eight is not “nearly 10.”

That estimation hinges on a pair of recounts going on in HD 26, the seat currently held by Democratic Rep. Patrick Henry and HD 89, the coastal Palm Beach County seat being vacated by term-limited GOP state Rep. Bill Hager. Republicans are up slightly in both contests.

Henry faced Republican challenger Elizabeth Fetterhoff in the general and with 61,038 ballots counted, she holds a 72-vote lead over the incumbent, a difference of just 0.12 percentage points.

Florida law triggers a recount if the result of a race is within 0.5 percentage points.

In HD 89, the two men vying to replace Hager, Republican accountant Mike Caruso and Ocean Ridge Democrat Jim Bonfiglio, were separated by 243 votes with 75,511 ballots counted. Percentage-wise, that split measures out to 0.32 percentage points, with Caruso leading 50.16 percent to Bonfiglio’s 49.84 percent.

Keith Perry

Keith Perry holds off Kayser Enneking to win second Senate term

Just like two years ago, the path for a Democratic flip or tie in the state Senate ran through Gainesville-based District 8.

With only a few votes left to be counted, SD 8 voters appear to have decided they’ll stay the course and re-elect Republican Sen. Keith Perry over his Democratic challenger, Kayser Enneking, keeping the purple North Central Florida district in GOP hands for a full four-year term.

With an unknown number of mail ballots still uncounted in Alachua County, Perry was leading Enneking 49.5 percent to 48.4 percent, a difference of 2,353 votes.

The 2018 battle for SD 8 started as a slow burn. Perry and Enneking dueled in the money race throughout the early goings and all indications pointed toward the pair facing off in the general election.

They did, of course, but not before a six-figure dark money campaign funded by GOP operatives boosted Enneking’s primary season opponent, Olysha Magruder.

Enneking’s campaign didn’t have a contingency plan for fighting off a TV and direct mail assault from their left flank and ended up dumping tens of thousands of campaign dollars into their own ad blitz ahead of the August nominating contest.

The primary was still an 18-point rout, but the gulf likely would have been wider and the costs likely would have been lower were it not for the intervention.

And there’s still the question of how many, if any, Magruder voters held off on voting for Enneking out of spite.

Perry, meanwhile, pulled ahead in fundraising and received hundreds of thousands worth of “in-kind” support from the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, incoming Senate President Bill Galvano’s well-stocked party affiliated committee.

If the primary put Enneking, a Gainesville physician, on crutches, it’s the late-June entry of Charles Goston that’ll go down as the “sweep the leg” moment.

Goston, crotchety and widely disliked, is a lifelong Democrat who until earlier this year was a member of the Gainesville City Commission. Now-Commissioner Gigi Simmons booted the septuagenarian out of office after a single term in an early May runoff election.

A month later, Goston filed for SD 8 as an unaffiliated candidate and remained unseen and unheard until late September. That’s when his campaign started sending out a bundle of mailers aimed at wooing his former, predominantly black constituents away from the Democratic nominee.

The strategy worked. Polls showed him siphoning away 6 percent of the vote, nearly all of it from Enneking.

On Election Day, those polls proved incorrect, but not by enough.

Had Goston’s 4,272 votes gone to the nominee of the political party he was once aligned with, it would be Enneking, not Perry, celebrating a victory tonight.

Instead, Perry earned his fifth electoral victory in as many tries.

All told, the three SD 8 candidates who made the general election ballot combined to spend nearly $3.6 million between their campaign accounts, political committees and the party support flowing in via “in-kind” contributions.

Perry’s effort accounted for about $1.8 million of that sum, followed by Enneking’s $1.64 million bid. Goston’s spiteful spoiler run cost $150,000.

With 2018 in the books, Democrats will have four years to think about what type of candidate can awaken the untapped Democratic plurality in the district.

Smith wasn’t able to do it, and Enneking wasn’t either, though she at least showed the party is headed in the right direction.

There may not be another go around, however, as lawmakers will be approving new Senate maps ahead of the 2022 elections, the next cycle where SD 8 will be on the ballot.

SD 8 covers all of Alachua and Putnam counties as well as the northern half of Marion County. It is one of a handful of districts that became more favorable to Democrats after the Senate map was redrawn ahead of the 2016 elections.

Scott Plakon re-elected, David Smith wins in Seminole House seats

In two nail-biter elections that followed their Republican colleague’s surprising loss earlier in the evening, Republican state Rep. Scott Plakon was re-elected Tuesday and David Smith won election to another Seminole County seat that had always been held by Republicans.

But neither won easily. Plakon defeated Democrat Tracey Kagan 51 percent to 49 percent to win re-election in House District 29.

Smith defeated Democrat Lee Mangold also by 51 percent to 49 percent to win an open seat in House District 28.

Earlier they watched Republican state Rep. Bob Cortes lose House District 30 to Maitland City Councilwoman Joy Goff-Marcil.

Plakon’s victory actually gives him a fifth term. He had served two terms in what is now Cortes’s district before he lost to Castor Dentel in 2012.

The Longwood publisher then ran and won in HD 29, and was re-elected in 2016. During that campaign and much of this one, he had to face the gradual decline of Susie Plakon, his wife of nearly 33 years, from Alzheimer’s Disease. She died in July, and Plakon said his focus on his campaign in the past couple of months has helped him cope.

Smith, of Winter Springs, a retired U.S. Marine colonel and business consultant in the field of simulation and modeling technologies, first emerged politically in 2014 when he challenged then-U.S. Rep. John Mica in the Republican primary. Mica easily won that challenge but lost to Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy two years later.

Smith had shown fundraising prowess and an ability to also self-fund his campaign, and a hard-driving commitment to campaigning and as soon as he entered the HD 28 race, seeking to succeed outgoing Republican state Rep. Jason Brodeur, he was the candidate to beat.

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