2018 midterms Archives - Florida Politics

Brian Mast defends Rick Scott, rips Bay Co. elections supervisor

U.S. Rep. Brian Mast had harsh words for missteps by various counties’ Supervisors of Election in a call to reporters Monday afternoon, including reports that Republican-leaning Bay County accepted votes by email and fax in opposition to Florida law.

Mast was speaking in defense of Gov. Rick Scott, and began by backing assertions that Scott would emerge the victor in his U.S. Senate race.

“No question this was a close race,” Mast said. “But it has been decisive as well.”

The latest tallies put Scott ahead of incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson by less than 13,000 votes.

A recount is currently being conducted in that race, as well as statewide contests for Governor and Agriculture Commissioner.

Scott attorney Tim Cerio of the GrayRobinson firm, who was also on the call, said nine counties have finished their machine recount, while 14 counties have not started. The remaining recounts are in progress.

Mast said he’s already helping with the Scott transition team, as well as the transition of Florida’s tentative Governor-elect, Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis leads Democrat Andrew Gillum by more than 33,000 votes at last count.

Mast also was outspoken about the process in Broward and Palm Beach counties. Both counties have earned heavy criticism for the way they have handled last week’s vote.

“One of the most frustrating things to me, personally, is when I see the law simply not being adhered to, court orders not being adhered to,” Mast said.

“We have laws in place for all elections at all levels so that we can try to ensure that people in our voting population can rely upon those laws and have confidence in that their vote matters.”

Mast is referring to Scott’s assessment that Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher was flouting a court order last week. Bucher said she would not be able to meet a court deadline to submit “overvoted” and “undervoted” absentee ballots to the county’s canvassing board.

Republicans have openly criticized those two South Florida counties, even veering into conspiracy talk at times.

But Mast says criticism should be equally applied to Republican-leaning Bay County. Reports emerged Monday that the county ignored Florida law and accepted ballots by email and fax in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael.

“It has to go either way, no matter whether it’s a Republican county or a Democrat county or a middle-of-the-road county,” Mast said of the criticism.

“For us to have that trust in the system, we have to be able to show that everybody is accountable to this and we’re not going to try to adjudicate elections based upon our party and how we can try to ignore some of these laws. That cannot be the perception for anybody on either side of the aisle.”

Mast, whose congressional district covers Palm Beach County, also ripped Bucher further over comments she would not be able to complete machine recounts by Thursday’s deadline, as the county’s equipment cannot conduct multiple recounts at once.

“When you have failures like this, and these failures have ripples that go across the entire state and the entire nation and diminish people’s faith in this system, that is one of the worst things that we can see happen,” Mast said, again emphasizing public faith in elections.

“That is, unfortunately, entirely preventable by good preparation. And this is where I think we’re seeing a failure to prepare for all of these possible contingencies when, in fact, that was their job to prepare for things like this. And that’s sad to see.”

What recount? Nikki Fried declares victory in Ag. Commissioner race

With a recount looking, Democratic candidate Nikki Fried declared victory Saturday in her race to be Florida’s next Agriculture Commissioner.

Fried also named former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy as chair of her transition team. U.S. Rep. Darren Soto of Florida’s 9th congressional District will serve as a co-chair, as will Fred Guttenberg. Guttenberg has become active in the political scene since his daughter, Jaime, was killed in February’s shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School.

At this stage, Fried leads her Republican opponent, Matt Caldwell, by just over 5,000 votes according to the latest numbers.

But with the first count in the race completed, Fried says voters have made their choice.

“The process has worked,” Fried said, speaking in front of supporters in Plantation.

“The will of the voters was heard, and the people’s choice is clear. I’m humbled and honored to be elected Florida’s next Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services, as the first woman to have ever been elected to this position.”

The election is not over, however. Fried’s margin gives her a 0.06 percentage point lead over Caldwell. Florida law requires any race within a 0.5 percentage point margin to go to a machine recount.

Fried’s tally climbed in recent days as ballots continued to be counted in Broward and Palm Beach counties.

Caldwell’s team has lashed out against the Broward County Supervisor of Elections office. They accused Supervisor Brenda Snipes of failing to accurately count the area’s votes.

That was followed by a lawsuit filed Friday against Snipes. His lawyers allege that Broward County accepted absentee ballots after the polls had close.

Though the race remains incredibly tight, the Florida Democratic Party has also congratulated Fried on her “win.”

Murphy also released a statement on his new role chairing Fried’s transition team, should she formally be declared the winner.

“Over the course of this race I’ve gotten to know Nikki Fried and she’s impressed me as a knowledgeable, hard-working, independent leader—she puts common-sense above politics and will do the right things as Commissioner,” Murphy said.

“I’m looking forward to working with her and Commissioner [Adam] Putnam on a seamless transition and helping her put together an office which will accomplish her priorities of protecting our waterways, being a fighter for farmers in Tallahassee and Washington, ensuring complete background checks, and expanding access to medical marijuana.”

Of her transition chairs, Fried said, “They bring a diversity of experience, expertise, and leadership in the important issues facing our state.”

She closed with a note reflecting back on what turned out to be a wild 2018 midterm cycle in the state.

“This election is unusual, and even historic,” Fried said.

“I plan to work my hardest, so I’m ready to tackle the issues as your next Commissioner of Agriculture.”

Caruso Bonfiglio

HD 89 contest headed to a recount

The open race for House District 89 is headed for a recount, as just over 100 votes separate the two candidates in the final tally with more than 77,000 votes cast.

Republican Mike Caruso finished with 50.08 percent of the vote. Democrat Jim Bonfiglio received 49.92 percent.

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

Tuesday night was the culmination of what was, at times, an incredibly heated contest between the two.

Combative mailers were sent out by both sides during the general election. And Bonfiglio even went so far as to file an ethics complaint against Caruso over alleged campaign finance violations.

Caruso also faced questions over a pair of endorsements he listed in an email to supporters which were in dispute.

And Caruso earned a suspension from his HOA and tennis club for allegedly using the premises to conduct his campaign.

Still, Caruso fought hard in the fundraising race after getting through a tough primary battle with fellow Republican Matt Spritz. But Bonfiglio wasn’t afraid to spend his own money in the form of self-loans into his campaign.

Some signs pointed to Bonfiglio having a shot of flipping this seat for the Democrats.

An internal poll from early October had Bonfiglio ahead by 10 percentage points. And a September analysis of the contest showed a path by which Bonfiglio could come out on top.

HD 89 runs up the coast of Palm Beach County. This was a race for an open seat; outgoing GOP state Rep. Bill Hager is term-limited.

Recount chaos: Rick Scott says Palm Beach official flouting court order

The Rick Scott for U.S. Senate campaign is accusing Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher of refusing to comply with a court order issued earlier Friday.

But Bucher says she just won’t be able to meet that deadline, according to WPBF’s Terri Parker. The ballots were to be provided to the county canvassing board.

Circuit Judge Krista Marx issued an order requiring Bucher to submit “overvoted” and “undervoted” absentee ballots for public review prior to the votes being counted.

Scott’s race against U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson appears to be headed to a recount, highlighting the importance of county officials’ oversight of the process.

Those ballots were to be provided to the county canvassing board. Now, Bucher says she won’t be able to meet that deadline, according to WPBF’s Terri Parker.

The Scott campaign issued a scathing statement in response.

“Tonight, Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher announced that she is refusing to comply with a court order to submit overvotes and undervotes to the Palm Beach County Canvassing Board for review under the court-ordered deadline,” said Chris Hartline, a Scott spokesperson.

“Susan Bucher has consistently refused to follow state law and comply with legally required deadlines and regulations. Whether it’s gross incompetence or intentional disregard for the rule of law is irrelevant at this point. Either way, it is embarrassing and unacceptable.”

The news comes the same night Broward County complied with a separate order from another judge, requiring Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes to submit to the Scott campaign the county’s tally of ballots received and counted.

Scott’s team said they have received documents from Snipes’ office, and are reviewing them to ensure they are complete.

Recount revving up? Broward releases vote info to Rick Scott campaign

The Rick Scott for Senate campaign Friday night said it has received documents requested from the office of Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes. Scott’s team said they’ll first be reviewing them to make sure they’re complete.

Snipes was ordered to release information regarding the county’s vote totals earlier Friday evening by Circuit Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips.

The ruling was part of a lawsuit initiated against Snipes by the Scott campaign and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Snipes was ordered to release the total number of ballots cast in the county. Phillips also mandated that the county list how many of those ballots had been counted and how many still remain uncounted.

Phillips cited violations by Snipes of both the Florida Constitution and the state’s public records law in issuing her ruling.

Scott has accused county officials of conspiring to steal the election from him. The outgoing and term-limited Republican Governor appears to be headed for a recount in his election bid to oust Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

The contest is one of several throughout the state which look to be in recount range.

The latest numbers gives Scott a lead of just under 15,000 votes among more than 8 million cast. He currently leads Nelson by just 0.18 percentage points.

Elections where the margin of victory is at or below 0.5 percent must undergo a machine recount under Florida law.

The Scott campaign issued a statement earlier, praising Phillips’ decision to order the vote counts released.

“We are glad that the Broward Supervisor of Elections is being held accountable for this unethical failure,” spokesman Chris Hartline said.

“Bill Nelson and his ragtag group of liberal lawyers from D.C. keep trying to steal this election, but they won’t get away with it. Floridians deserve transparency, and we are going to keep fighting to protect the choice the voters made in this election.”

Hartline is referring to Marc Elias of Perkins Coie, a high-powered law firm based in D.C. Elias is representing Nelson’s campaign in the legal quagmire surrounding the election.

Recount ready: Courts side with Rick Scott on South Florida vote counts

Supervisors of elections in Broward and Palm Beach counties have been ordered to turn over records regarding the number of ballots cast in their respective areas following a pair of lawsuits by the Rick Scott for Senate campaign.

Brenda Snipes’ office in Broward has until 7 p.m. Friday evening to turn over those records.

The Scott campaign also released a statement regarding the order given to Palm Beach Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher.

“We are pleased that the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections is being held accountable for this failure,” said Scott Campaign Manager Jackie Schutz Zeckman.

“Bill Nelson is trying to commit voter fraud in broad daylight and we won’t let them. We will continue to fight for full transparency and accountability, and to protect the will of Florida voters.”

It wasn’t clear what Zeckman is referring to when alleging Nelson is attempting to commit voter fraud, as the elections are handled by individual counties’ SoE offices. It’s also not clear the substance of the fraud being alleged.

Scott’s team sued Broward and Palm Beach counties after reported vote counts were in dispute.

Scott sought to clarify the exact number of votes cast in Broward County. Circuit Judge Carol-Lisa Phillips agreed with Scott’s arguments, mandating Snipes turn over those numbers to the Scott campaign.

In Palm Beach, Circuit Judge Krista Marx says Bucher must submit “overvoted” and “undervoted” absentee ballots for a public review prior to the votes being counted.

Scott is in the midst of an election that appears to be headed for a recount after he challenged Nelson for his U.S. Senate seat. The contest is one of several throughout the state which appear to be in recount range.

Recount: League of Women Voters pleads with provisional voters to fix ballots

The League of Women Voters (LWV) is out with a public service announcement amid the various recounts, urging those who cast provisional ballots to verify them.

Voters are given two days following an election to provide ID or other documentation to their county’s Supervisor of Elections to verify their identity and make sure their ballots are counted.

That leaves those voters with a deadline of 5 p.m. Thursday to get that information in.

“We want to make sure all eligible voters who cast a ballot have their vote counted,” said Patricia Brigham, president of the group’s Florida chapter.

“The LWV has long advocated for a thorough and accurate process of counting provisional ballots. All ballots must be counted. We will be monitoring closely and taking further action as needed if necessary.”

LWV is a nonpartisan group aimed at increasing voter participation across the country via advocacy and education.

Statewide races for U.S. Senate and Agriculture Commissioner are currently within the 0.5 percentage point margin which would trigger an automatic recount. The Ag. Commish race is particularly close: Republican state Rep. Matt Caldwell leads Democratic nominee Nikki Fried by just 4,094 votes out of more than 8 million cast, a difference of 0.05 percentage points.

The race for Governor sits just outside that margin, with a 0.52 percentage point difference.

At the state level, recounts may also be needed in Senate District 18, House District 26 and House District 89.

Other groups, such as the Florida Democratic Party, are also out to aid those who cast provisional ballots to make sure their votes are tallied.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that the campaigns for U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott, who are separated by just 0.26 percentage points, have reached out to county officials for information regarding provisional ballots.

Those efforts have been rebuffed, as the officials said campaigns are denied direct access to ballots under law.

That nugget was noted by Brigham, who said those voters should nevertheless have assistance in ensuring their votes are registered.

“Providing voter information to campaigns would violate Florida’s Constitution according to election officials, but we do want to urge those who cast a provisional ballot to make sure their vote counts by providing the necessary ID or documentation to their county Supervisor of Elections before today’s deadline of 5 p.m.”

Recount-mania: Democrats on the hunt for votes

With multiple statewide races likely headed for a recount, the Florida Democratic Party (FDP) is all hands on deck attempting to track down volunteers to help with recount efforts.

Thursday is the deadline for those who cast provisional ballots to provide evidence that those ballots are valid. Voters who cast such ballots have until 5 p.m. two days following an election to verify their ballots.

As reported this morning, provisional ballots could make the difference in several races here in Florida.

As of 11:45 a.m. Thursday, the margin in the race for U.S. Senate now sits at just 0.26 percentage points, or 21,888 votes, while the Agriculture Commissioner contest has 0.05 percentage point margin, or 4,094 votes.

Races within a 0.5 percentage point margin trigger an automatic recount, with those inside 0.25 percentage points following a machine recount mandating a manual recount.

The race for Governor between Democrat Andrew Gillum and Republican Ron DeSantis is just outside recount range, with a 0.52 percentage point margin.

And at the state level, the contests in Senate District 18, House District 26, and House District 89 also appear to be in recount territory. And Democrats say they also have their eye on House Districts 105 and 115, both of which are currently outside the 0.5 percentage point range.

Now, the FDP is attempting to court volunteers to help reach out to voters who cast provisional ballots.

“Over the next few days a canvassing board of election judges in each county will determine whether those provisional ballots should be accepted,” read a release from the Miami-Dade Democratic Party.

“Volunteers are being asked to contact these voters by phone or by visiting their homes to sign affidavits that can help ensure their votes are counted.”

The Miami-Dade Dems are asking for help at their offices in Pinecrest, Aventura, Allapattah, Coral Gables, Hialeah, Sweetwater and Miami Gardens.

Nikki Fried, who is trailing by a sliver in the Ag. Commissioner race to Republican Matt Caldwell, is also sending out email blasts asking for volunteers. She’s included a link on her campaign website to help find those willing to donate their time.

After tonight’s deadline regarding provisional ballots, it will be up to respective canvassing board to certify the results.

‘Year of the Woman’ in South Florida? Tuesday’s results were mixed

Ahead of Tuesday night’s election results, many political prognosticators were projecting 2018 to be the “Year of the Woman.” But the results from South Florida showed mixed results at best for women candidates at the state and federal level.

We knew that a record-breaking number of women were running for Congress in 2018. That led comparisons to 1992, which was also dubbed the “Year of the Woman.”

And sure enough, after the results came in Tuesday night, a record number of women got elected as well.

South Florida was one of the focal points of the push, with four women running in competitive House districts. Three of those women were attempting to oust male GOP incumbents. A fourth, Donna Shalala, was competing in an open race against another woman, former broadcaster Maria Elvira Salazar.

Shalala took the seat for Democrats in a race that would have sent a woman to Congress either way.

And the only woman to defeat an incumbent among the group was Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in Florida’s 26th Congressional District. Lauren Baer came up short against Brian Mast in Florida’s 18th, and Mary Barzee Flores was defeated easily by Mario Diaz-Balart in Florida’s 25th.

The state House results for women were similarly disparate.

Democratic candidate Emma Collum, one of the organizers of the Women’s March back in 2017, attempted to win Broward County’s only GOP seat in House District 93. But she lost an open race to Republican candidate Chip LaMarca.

However, down in House District 103, Cindy Polo pulled off a surprising win in another open race. Her opponent, Frank Mingo, was well-connected to current House Republicans and consistently outraised Polo throughout the general. But Polo prevailed.

Of the South Florida women who claimed victory Tuesday night, Polo’s was arguably the most surprising.

But none of the true long shots pulled it out. CD 26 was consistently close in the polls, and CD 27 was guaranteed to have a woman representing the district.

So did South Florida’s women candidates underperform? You can’t say that either.

It seems that by and large, women candidates performed just about as they should have Tuesday night given the particularities and demographics of their given districts.

So what Tuesday night showed was what election researchers have already found: Women candidates can succeed just as easily as their male counterparts. Though women are vastly underrepresented in Congress, that’s not due to male candidates performing better in elections.

Rather, the problem is that far fewer women run for Congress in the first place.

Part of that problem is a similar level of under-representation of women at the state level. And given that congressional candidates often come from state politics, that leaves a pipeline populated with more men than women.

So no, South Florida women did not dominate in every race they ran. But those that had success showed that being a woman running for office isn’t an albatross around a candidate.

Maybe that reality is enough to encourage more women to run, and win, in the future.

Richard DeNapoli nabs Broward conservation district seat

The sole open seat on the Broward Soil & Water Conservation District is changing hands after Richard DeNapoli came out on top in the race for Seat 2 Tuesday night.

DeNapoli, the former chairman of the Broward County Republican Party, defeated incumbent Richard Leys in the race.

More recently, DeNapoli has served as a state committeeman for the Broward GOP. Leys had served on the district board since 2013.

The conservation district works with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to create “ways to conserve water, prevent soil erosion, convert irrigation systems and inform the public about conservation problems,” according to its website.

The Broward district has suffered from money problems recently. The group does not have taxing authority and thus depends on grants, and Broward has struggled to find money to fund its initiatives.

DeNapoli will be walking into an unpaid position to help ameliorate those issues.

“I don’t see a lot of action,” DeNapoli said of the district in comments to the Sun Sentinel late last month. “It’s hard to get information. They still haven’t raised any money.”

According to the newspaper, DeNapoli said he would be aggressive in fundraising attempts and would also go after state and federal grants available to the district.

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