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Ken Detzner formally orders Florida recount for Senate, Governor, Ag. Commissioner

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner has formally ordered a machine recount in three statewide races: U.S. Senate, Governor and Agriculture Commissioner.

“I hereby order the canvassing boards responsible for canvassing [the three races] to conduct a machine recount of the votes cast in the race,” reads an order from Detzner sent to elections supervisors in all 67 Florida counties. Separate orders were sent for each race subject to a recount.

The Secretary of State’s office also sent procedures to be followed for the machine recount.

Totals as of 12:30 on Saturday shows Republican Senate candidate Rick Scott leading incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson by 12,562, Republican Gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis beating Democrat Andrew Gillum by 33,684 votes, and Democratic Agriculture Commissioner candidate Nikki Fried ahead of Republican Matt Caldwell by 5,326 votes.

All three races fall within the 0.5 percent margin to trigger a statewide recount.

For now, only a machine recount has been orders and that remains the focus of elections officials.

Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Ron Turner says in his office, he will count all three statewide races simultaneously during the machine recount.

Two of the races, for U.S. Senate and Agriculture Commissioner, have margins right now that fall with 0.25 percent of total votes cast. If the gap between candidates remains that tight after the machine recount, the law requires Detzner to order a hand recount as well.

Turner says the case of a manual recount, only over- and under-votes will be counted.

With a recount moving forward in Florida’s U.S. Senate contest, Democrat Bill Nelson projected confidence totals will still swing his way.

“This process is about one thing: making sure every legal ballot is counted and protecting the right of every Floridian to participate in our democracy,” Nelson said in a statement. “Since Tuesday, the gap has shrunk from roughly 60,000 votes to about 12,500 – the margin has reduced by 78 percent and is now roughly .15 percent.

“We have every expectation the recount will be full and fair and will continue taking action to ensure every vote is counted without interference or efforts to undermine the democratic process. We believe when every legal ballot is counted we’ll win this election.”

But Republican leaders say they are resolved to make sure the count is fair and confident Republicans will come out ahead in all three races.

“Democrats would like nothing more than to rip victories away from Ron DeSantis, Rick Scott & Matt Caldwell,” said Christian Ziegler, a member of the Florida GOP Executive Board. “As we’ve seen in Broward County, they will stop at nothing to win, including possibly violating the law.

“My job is to block any Democrat shenanigans and ensure that every vote is fairly counted and that the proper processes are being executed.”

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‘Busy day for lawyers’: Susie Wiles talks Ron DeSantis’ recount

Susie Wiles, campaign manager and transition team leader for Ron DeSantis, spoke to Florida Politics Saturday.

She and the candidate are both in Jacksonville, not in Tallahassee at the recount headquarters, a seeming measure of the confidence the DeSantis campaign has about the recount going their way.

In the gubernatorial race, DeSantis still leads Democrat Andrew Gillum by 33,684 votes. That’s a 0.41-percent margin, over ten thousand votes above the manual recount threshold.

“It’s a busy day for lawyers,” Wiles quipped. “There are people everywhere, observers and attorneys across the state.”

At this writing, two other races are headed to a recount.

In the U.S. Senate race, Republican Rick Scott holds a 12,562-vote lead over Democrat Bill Nelson, a 0.15 percent margin.

In the Agriculture Commissioner race, Democrat Nikki Fried has a lead of 5,326 votes over Republican Matt Caldwell, a 0.06-percent difference.

Each campaign, Republican and Democratic, is watching the recount closely.

“Most counties will be done by Wednesday,” Wiles noted about the machine recount. Results are due by 3 p.m. Thursday.

Wiles has won close elections before, managing statewide efforts for Rick Scott and Donald Trump that were something less than landslides. If the DeSantis victory holds, this is yet another come-from-behind win that mystified a pundit class that bought into the Blue Wave theory.

The campaign is confident that a manual recount won’t be triggered by those results.

The DeSantis campaign has been more muted than those of fellow Republicans Scott and Caldwell in decrying ongoing vote count.

DeSantis is confident that Tuesday’s results will hold.

“I was honored Tuesday night to be elected 46th Governor of the State of Florida.  The results of the election were clear.  I am now focused on the transition effort and will allow the legal efforts regarding the election to proceed, as is necessary, as the process unfolds,” he told us Thursday afternoon.

‘Enough is enough’: Lindsey Graham decries vote count ‘shenanigans’

On Saturday, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham warned in a press call that attempts by Florida Democrats to steal the Florida election wouldn’t work.

“Enough is enough, and it’s time to declare Rick Scott the winner after the recount,” Graham said.

Graham had made similar comments on Fox News’ Hannity Friday.

“We believe Rick won fair and square,” Graham said, decrying “shenanigans” in Broward County.

“The activity I’m referring to is a flagrant violation of the law regarding reporting requirements,” Graham said, wondering if “incompetence” or “fraud” drove anomalies.

“How can it be that two, three days after the election, you report 78,000 votes more than what you reported on Election Day … the history of Broward County is unsavory at best,” Graham said.

“There’s a reason there’s a reporting requirement thirty minutes after polls closed,” Graham said, noting Broward and Palm Beach present “problems at every level.”

“These two counties … when it comes to these shenanigans, enough is enough,” Graham said.

“Broward County is in flagrant violation of Florida law. Same with Palm Beach,” Graham said.

“I hope people across Florida and the nation will take a look at what’s going on in Broward and Palm Beach County,” Graham said, before relating this somehow to the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Three statewide races are in recount territory.

Republican Rick Scott, for whom Graham campaigned, leads Bill Nelson in the Senate race by .16 percent (13,404 votes).

Republican Ron DeSantis leads Andrew Gillum by .42 percent (34,500 votes) in the Governor’s race.

Democrat Nikki Fried has a .06 percent (4,475 vote) lead over Republican Matt Caldwell in the race for Agriculture Commissioner.

Unofficial results are due at noon Saturday, and if these margins hold at under .5 percent, recounts will be in play.

Thursday at 3 p.m. is the deadline for the results of automatic recounts to be reported to the Florida Secretary of State.

If a difference is less than .25 percent, the manual recount scenario would be in play, with a deadline for this being Sunday Nov. 18.

Jacksonville Bold for 11.9.18 — Game change

Electing Ron DeSantis to the top office in the state (pending recount, that is) is a capital-g “Game Change” moment for Duval.

DeSantis’ base is Jacksonville though he lives in Ponte Vedra.

Everyone reading this knows that despite a county line, the money easily flows over borders.

Don’t kid yourselves, Gov. Ron DeSantis is a game changer for Jacksonville.

Pols from both Duval and Clay validated him, in case Adam Putnam pressure made Trumpista voters a bit wobbly. And DeSantis’ general election campaign savior, Susie Wiles, hails from the same region.

As you read on, Wiles is not done yet.

Northeast Florida has a lot of needs. It’s hard to imagine member projects getting vetoed, especially in favor of projects benefiting Democratic Mayors who heaped opprobrium on DeSantis before Election Day.

Jacksonville won. Northeast Florida won.

To quote a familiar presence: “Are you tired of winning yet?”

We run things

Few will disagree that the support of President Donald Trump carried DeSantis to what looks like a victory in the Governor’s race.

But no less important: support from Northeast Florida.

Susie Wiles (for good or ill) pulled it together for Ron DeSantis.

For two terms in Congress, DeSantis represented Ponte Vedra, the suburbs south of Jacksonville (a third term saw his district moved farther south). It was clear during most of his tenure that Congress wasn’t his final destination; a perception reinforced when he (briefly) ran for the party’s Senate nomination until incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio decided to run for re-election.

Though a recount is now assured in the Governor’s race, the DeSantis team is already moving into transition mode. And atop that transition is a big Northeast Florida bow.

Campaign manager Wiles, who took a campaign that looked unmoored and undisciplined and stabilized the operation before finding a way to erase Andrew Gillum‘s polling edge with independent voters, is running the transition.

But wait, there’s more.

Trump’s man bests Clinton alum

So much for the polls. And outside money.

The high-profile race to replace DeSantis in Congress involved two nationally known candidates and went down to the wire.

Mike Waltz served our country. Now he’s serving in our Congress.

Ultimately, the President picked the winner. And that winner won by double-digits.

Republican Mike Waltz, a former Green Beret and counterterrorism adviser to then-Vice President Dick Cheney, defeated Democrat Nancy Soderberg, a Clinton-era Ambassador to the United Nations.

The race saw more than $5 million of direct spending from the candidates; $3 million of that was from Soderberg, who ran as a moderate Democrat in a district that the previous Democratic candidate and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton each lost by 15+ points in 2016.

The money was necessary on both sides as the air war went nuclear.

Per CNN, “the vast majority of the roughly $3.7 million spent on TV in this district in the final week [was] coming from Soderberg and her allies — including $2.4 million from Michael Bloomberg‘s Independence USA PAC.”

Soderberg messaged as a moderate Democrat. But it wasn’t enough.

Radical change coming

The two Congressmen representing Jacksonville, Democrat Al Lawson and Republican John Rutherford, have become friends in the last two years.

John Rutherford and Al Lawson with Rep. Val Demings. (Image via David Cawton/Jax Daily Record)

Lawson, representing Florida’s 5th Congressional District, which sprawls from Jacksonville to Tallahassee, emphasizes working across the aisle, and in a Republican-held House that has been a useful strategy, especially for the Republican power structure that controls Jacksonville at every level.

Rutherford, whose CD 4 includes Jacksonville and many of its suburbs, has been an enthusiastic Trump booster.

Both men won handily Tuesday. Rutherford beat Democrat Ges Selmont; Lawson defeated Democrat Virginia Fuller.

However, before the election, both men told Florida Politics what a flip may portend.

“One thing I’ve learned after almost two years in Washington, D.C., in the House of Representatives: You never want to be in the minority party,” Rutherford noted. “It makes it very difficult to get your agenda accomplished.

Read more here.

Wyman triumphs

The million-dollar-plus race to replace Jay Fant in House District 15 has concluded.

And the Democrats — despite a herculean effort — could not flip it.

On Tuesday, Republican Wyman Duggan defeated Democrat Tracye Polson by 51 percent to 49 percent.

Wyman Duggan wins: Try as they might, Democrats couldn’t flip HD 15.

Democrats had not previously fielded a candidate for this seat for nearly a decade. However, this cycle saw not simply a campaign, but one that had the resources to compete with Republican political machines both in downtown Jacksonville and Tallahassee.

And that GOP machine was out in force, with legislators from across the state coming into Jacksonville’s Westside to knock on doors for Duggan, a lobbyist by trade who was backed by the local political establishment.

The special interests attacked, and they got through to voters outside of Riverside and Avondale, sinecures where a Polson sign was on every block.

Duggan will be a reliable voice for interests of City Hall, offering Mayor Lenny Curry another person in the delegation with whom communication flows well.

Republicans hold serve

Despite active campaigns in other Republican-held districts, Democrats couldn’t overcome party registration and capital advantages, WJXT reported.

“In House District 11, which includes Nassau County and part of Duval County, Republican incumbent Cord Byrd was re-elected to his second two-year term with 69 percent of the vote. He faced a challenge from Democrat Nathcelly Leroy Rohrbaugh, a homemaker and first-time candidate.”

Cord Byrd rebuffed primary and general election challenges.

Byrd credited “grassroots.” Other candidates had similar margins.

District 12’s Clay Yarborough garnered 59 percent of the vote, HD 16’s Jason Fischer 58 percent.

In House District 17, incumbent Republican Cyndi Stevenson cleared 70 percent, as did HD 19’s Bobby Payne.

House District 24 Republican Paul Renner also breezed to victory. Meanwhile, Reps. Tracie Davis, Kim Daniels, and Travis Cummings had no opposition.

‘Losing sucks’

Tuesday night, Jacksonville Mayor Curry was not graceful in victory.

In victory, there was little grace.

Curry spiked the ball on local exponents of the “Blue Wave” theory, reminding locals of his pre-primary endorsement of Ron DeSantis for Governor and his support of U.S. Senator-elect Rick Scott.

“From my years in Sports, coaching, business, parenting, life & government, I’ve never understood those that lose the battle then find something to celebrate. Odd and a recipe for serial losing. Losing sucks. I’m glad my opponents haven’t figured that out,” Curry tweeted.

Curry was in position to spike the ball. In addition to DeSantis and Scott winning (also pending a recount), other endorsed candidates, like Mike Waltz in CD 6 and Duggan in House District 15, got over the finish line despite well-funded and energetic Democratic challengers with outside help.

His message: Curry’s ready for 2019.

Blu-Val?

The always perceptive Andrew Pantazi noted Duval going Democratic Tuesday, then noted that it didn’t matter much in the end for statewide tallies.

Duval got on the bus. But the exurbs went the other way.

“DeSantis didn’t need to worry about the large urban counties. While Duval’s margin shifted by a whopping 50,855 votes, that wasn’t enough to handle the Republican growth in the state’s suburban and exurban counties,” Pantazi notes, before adding that Dems have work ahead.

“And even though Duval was one of the few counties to shift hard toward Democrats, the county is still run almost entirely by Republicans. It has a Republican mayor in the city that gives the most power to a mayor of any municipality in the state. It has a Republican sheriff in a consolidated government that gives him more power than almost any other sheriff. It has Republicans running each of the constitutional offices — tax collector, property appraiser, clerk of courts, supervisor of elections. And the City Council is still overwhelmingly Republican: 13 out of the 19 city council members are Republicans, a supermajority.”

GOP holds Duval tax collector spot

Though a 2019 election looms, Republican Jim Overton won Tuesday’s special election for Duval County Tax Collector.

The tax man cometh.

But it was close.

Overton won with 51 percent of the vote. He defeated Democrat Mia Jones, most recently a member of the Florida House, rising to Democratic Leader pro tempore in 2014-16.

The low-wattage race pitted two political veterans against each other in the runoff, after both emerged from an August blanket primary.

Worth watching now that the special election is over: Whether anyone will file to oppose the winner on the 2019 ballot. Qualifying is in early January.

Ask Council first, OK?

Duval County voters Tuesday approved a nonbinding referendum suggesting that the Jacksonville City Council must first approve a sale of 10 percent or more of the municipal utility (JEA).

Before a JEA sale, Council members must have a say.

While JEA has an independent board, the push to privatize the utility that started a year ago led Council members to want increased checks and balance.

Jacksonville City Councilman John Crescimbeni, who sponsored the legislation that put the measure on the ballot, said the nonbinding poll allowed voters to “weigh in and tell us they’re interested, or they’re not interested.”

The legislation to put the matter on the ballot came after some of the best-connected lobbyists in the area started working this spring for companies that may want to buy JEA.

Speculation has swirled that even though the issue has been tabled in recent months, it could return with a new intensity after city elections in spring 2019.

T-shirt theater

Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis, a Democrat, wore a Gillum for Governor T-shirt to a Council committee meeting Tuesday.

A blazer covered the jacket. Nonetheless, he was told that would draw an ethics complaint, he said.

Garrett Dennis probably won’t wear his Andrew Gillum shirt again.

“My jacket was on all day,” Dennis said.

Dennis said earlier in the day he had run into Jacksonville’s two most powerful staffers: Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa and Chief of Staff Brian Hughes.

According to Dennis, they told him to “take off your jacket … we want to see what’s under your jacket.”

A copy of the complaint is not yet in hand. And we’ve been frustrated in getting any confirmation such a complaint exists.

“Complaints made to the Ethics Commission are confidential, per Florida law,” said Carla Miller, the City of Jacksonville’s Director of Ethics Compliance and Oversight.

Hughes, meantime, says this is another “false claim” from Dennis.

This latest episode continues an ongoing tango of claims and counterclaims. Dennis has maintained that Lenny Curry’s administration has bullied and intimidated him for over a year.

At the same time, one former Curry staffer has claimed that Dennis intimidated her during a closed meeting.

Salute to disabled vets

Jacksonville-based law firm Farah & Farah is teaming up with Five Star Veterans Center for a donation drive, and the firm will match donations up to $79,000 through Nov. 18. All donations go to the center.

You can make donations in any amount at farahandfarah.com/veterans.

Please consider a donation to the Five Star Veterans Center.

Founded in March 2012, Five Star Veterans Center is a nonprofit to assist veterans aged 22 to 55 suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries, depression, anxiety and other related mental health issues.

The goal of the organization is for each veteran to be reintegrated into society, and to help displaced military veterans find safe housing and supportive services.

To view a video about the promotion and Five Star Veterans Center, click on the image below:

JAA committee recommends CEO

A four-member CEO selection committee of the Jacksonville Aviation Authority is recommending Mark VanLoh as the organization’s next leader, replacing Steve Grossman who retired earlier this year.

Congratulations to Mark VanLohm, the leading candidate for JAA CEO.

As first reported by the Jacksonville Business Journal, the full board will vote on VanLoh during its next meeting Nov. 26. VanLoh comes to the JAA after stints as director of aviation for Kansas City, Missouri and president of Chattanooga Airport Authority.

“The selection committee is ecstatic to nominate Mark VanLoh to succeed Steve Grossman,” committee chair Patrick Kilbane said in a statement. “Mark will bring extensive experience, proven results and passion to the aviation authority. We look forward to working with him.”

VanLoh came out on top in a field of 73 applicants, which was then narrowed to four by the consulting firm ADK Consulting & Executive Search. Of that final list, VanLoh was considered the “clear winner.”

UF Health gets top grades in 2019

A new report by national health organization analysts at Healthgrades are recognizing UF Health Jacksonville with two prestigious clinical awards, ranking it as one of the top hospitals in the country for multiple areas of care.

According to a statement from UF Health Jacksonville, the achievements our in cranial neurosurgery and critical care. UF Health Jacksonville is the only hospital in Northeast Florida to receive those distinctions.

UF Health gets accolades as a top hospital for 2019.

“This is an amazing achievement, and I could not be prouder of the people here who have worked so hard to improve our quality,” said Leon L. Haley Jr., MD, MHSA, CEO of UF Health Jacksonville and dean of the University of Florida College of Medicine — Jacksonville.

Evaluation and the Healthgrades 2019 report highlights the importance of consumer access to high-quality care, using data from 4,500 hospitals nationwide — including risk-adjusted mortality and complication rates — to determine the top performing hospitals nationwide.

Glimpse of the past

Per COJ.net: After spending nearly 60 years behind a cornerstone in the old Bay Street City Hall building, the contents of a time capsule buried in 1960 were opened by Mayor Curry and City Council President Aaron Bowman Oct. 3.

The contents have been digitized and stored in the Special Collections Department at the Main Library, which can also be viewed on the Jacksonville Public Library website.

The public gets a glimpse into the past as Jacksonville opens a 1960 time capsule.

There is also a way to look at the artifacts in person, by calling call (904) 630-2409 to schedule an appointment with a librarian. Library officials are working to create a name index, making it easier to find specific people mentioned within the artifacts.

JAXPORT Top Ten

Moving about 2.8 million metric tons from Oct. 1, 2017 to Sept. 30, 2018 — the 2018 fiscal year — JAXPORT is one of the key hubs for transporting raw materials.

JAXPORT releases its Top Ten cargo items in FY 2018.

The Jacksonville Business Journal reports on the top 10 imports coming through JAXPORT (listed here from smallest to largest):

— Stones and pebbles: accounting for 89,500 metric tons.

— Coal: Last year’s front-runner dropped to 90,000 metric tons, from 1.9 million metric tons in FY 2017.

— Coffee: More than 94,000 metric tons moved through JAXPORT this year.

— Tires, tubes: The Port of Jacksonville imported nearly 100,000 metric tons of tires and tubes.

— Furniture: More than 182,000 metric tons of furniture move through the Port of Jacksonville.

— Petroleum products: about 183,000 metric tons of petroleum products were imported through the port last year.

— Other: Since much of JAXPORT is “tenant-operated,” a significant number of items in containers are not listed. That category accounts for 368,000 metric tons.

— Paper products: JAXPORT moved nearly 369,000 metric tons of paper and paper products.

— Limestone: More than a half-million tons of limestone were imported through the port in 2018.

And the No. 1 most imported item through JAXPORT:

— Automobiles: Nearly 750,000 metric tons of motor vehicles came through the Port of Jacksonville, by way of Southeast Toyota Distributors, Amports and Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics.

Jaguars desperate for a win

Fans and analysts are calling Sunday’s game in Indianapolis against the Colts a “must win.” Players and coaches do not often say such things publicly, but these are not ordinary times.

“This is a thousand percent must-win,” said linebacker Myles Jack. “No. 1, it’s a conference game that we’ve got to win. And then we’re on a four-game losing streak, so we can’t lose another game.”

Myles Jack calls this Sunday a “thousand percent must-win.”

It is also an AFC South Division game, one of two against the Colts. Both teams come into the game with 3-5 records, both trailing the 6-3 Houston Texans.

The Jaguars are coming off their bye week. By going winless in October, they last walked off the field after a victory Sept. 30, when they beat the New York Jets 31-12 at TIAA Bank Field.

While the game is on the road, there are some positives to look at for Jacksonville. Top among those is the return of running back Leonard Fournette from injury.

But unless someone is a super-back, they can often be only as good as their offensive line, which has been a problem lately. Coach Doug Marrone said he lost faith in the line during their game in London against the Philadelphia Eagles, especially in short yardage situations.

Quarterback Blake Bortles is thrilled to have Fournette return and believes, as does the entire team, that the team’s fortunes are about to improve dramatically.

“I know everybody’s fired up to have him back in the lineup,” Bortles said. “I know I’m excited to watch him run. I know guys are excited to block for him and kind of see him go.”

The game will mark the first without defensive end Dante Fowler, Jr., who was traded to the Los Angeles Rams soon after returning from London.

The defense needs to get better quickly as well since they face on of the NFL’s top quarterbacks in Andrew Luck, a dynamic receiver in T.Y. Hilton and emerging running back Marlon Mack out of the University of South Florida.

On the other side of the ball, the Jaguars recorded 10 sacks the last time these teams met more than a year ago. The Colts are counting on their improved offensive line to prevent a repeat.

Recount of one needed? Patrick Murphy says ballot wasn’t counted

Former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy jumped into the fray surrounding multiple potential recounts in the state, saying he was informed his absentee ballot was not counted by Palm Beach County.

Murphy said on Twitter he was given a notice from the county that there was an “invalid signature match,” and that they were therefore unable to count his ballot.

“Should be +1 ,” Murphy wrote. “Must overhaul these ridiculous barriers to voting.” Florida Politics has reached out to the former congressman for further comment.

In speaking with Florida Politics, Murphy laid out how he discovered his vote would not be counted.

“I was more just out of curiosity looking at all these close elections and frustrated by the results,” Murphy said.

In the midst of researching the results, Murphy says he decided to go to the Palm Beach County website to ensure that his vote was registered.

“I’m looking at it. I’m like, ‘This can’t be real.’ Because all of a sudden it’s saying, ‘ballot received, invalid signature.’ It’s the same exact signature I used in the primary, same exact signature I’ve always used, same exact signature on my driver’s license. And, for whatever reason, it didn’t count this time.”

Murphy also says his ballot wasn’t registered as “received” until Election Day, which is after the deadline for verifying signatures in vote-by-mail ballots.

As the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections notes on its website, “The deadline to rectify a vote by mail missing the voter’s signature is 5 p.m. on the day before an election.”

Murphy suggested moving that deadline until the Thursday following the election at 5 p.m. That would put it in line with the deadline to verify voters’ provisional ballots and would have given Murphy a chance to prove that his signature was valid.

The former congressman also argued that wider reforms to the election systems should be looked at, such as using blockchain technology, as well as moving Election Day to a weekend to increase the accessibility of voting.

Palm Beach and Broward counties have taken heavy heat in recent days for their delays in counting ballots.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rick Scott has even gone so far as to allege an outright conspiracy by those offices to “steal” the election. Scott leads incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson by a sliver in that race.

President Donald Trump even joined in on Scott’s explosive allegations, with other Florida politicians jumping in as well.

Three statewide contests appear to be within the range to trigger an automatic recount. Those are the U.S. Senate race, Florida Governor’s race, and the contest for state Agriculture Commissioner.

In addition, state legislative races in Senate District 18 and House District 26 and 89 also look to be headed for a recount.

By law, any race with a lead of 0.5 percent or less triggers a mandatory machine recount. After that, if the margin of victory is still within 0.25 percent, a manual recount must occur, but only of undervotes and overvotes.

Murphy said the closeness of these races should signal the importance of making your voice heard during election time.

“Every vote does matter,” Murphy said.

“As tough as it is when you’re working two jobs and have kids at home and are fighting traffic, everyone does matter. And hopefully this is another sign of that, that whenever the next election is, whether it’s a local, state, federal one, that people get out there to vote.”

Murphy, who swapped his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat in 2011, served in the U.S. House 2013-17. He challenged GOP U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio for his seat as a Democrat in 2016, ultimately losing that race.

More recently, Murphy floated a potential bipartsian gubernatorial bid with former GOP U.S. Rep. David Jolly. That ticket never came to fruition, and Jolly later announced he was leaving the Republican Party.

The latest: Governor’s race in machine recount; Senate’s, Ag Commissioner’s in hand recount

Overnight changes in the vote totals for Florida’s three contested statewide race show Republican Ron DeSantis‘ lead in the governor’s election slipping to 36,000 votes, Republican Rick Scott’s lead in the U.S. Senate election down to 15,000, and Democrat Nikki Fried moving out to an almost 3,000 vote lead for Agriculture Commissioner.

That calls for a machine recount of the governor’s election and hand recounts for the U.S. Senate and Agriculture Commissioner elections.

DeSantis’ lead over Democrat Andrew Gillum had slipped overnight to 36,211 votes ealy Friday morning. That’s 0.44 percent of the vote total, well below the 0.50 percent difference threshold, currently 41,048 votes,  triggering a mandatory machine recount of the governor’s election. The number is slipping teasingly toward the 0.25 percent difference threshold, currenlty 20,524 votes, that would trigger a hand recount.

Scott’s lead Friday morning had slipped to 15,074 votes over Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. That’s 0.18 percent of the vote total, well under the 0.25 difference, currently at 20,436 votes, triggering a hand recount.

Fried’s lead over Republican Matt Caldwell had incrased to 2,915 votes overnight. That’s 0.04 percent of the vote total, also still well under the 0.25 difference, currently at 20,116 votes in that race, requiring a hand recount.

FRIED

Recount looms in Ag Commissioner race, as Nikki Fried seizes lead

Democrat Nikki Fried now holds the lead over Republican Matt Caldwell in tabulated votes in the Agriculture Commissioner race.

Out of over 8.046 million votes counted, Fried leads by 2,885.

If she wins and replaces incumbent Adam Putnam, Fried would be the first Democrat in the Cabinet for a number of cycles.

Caldwell held a lead Tuesday night, but as votes slowly trickled in, most notably thousands of early and vote-by-mail votes in Democratic-leaning Broward County, the candidates’ totals moved to a flip.

“Since the first returns came in on election night, we have said that seeing through this process to the end, ensuring every vote is counted so the voices of Floridians are heard, and their will is respected—is the top priority,” Fried said.

“As Supervisors across our state work tirelessly to do just that, our support has grown and we are now leading by just under 600 votes—Florida Supervisors and Canvassing Boards are doing an incredible job of ensuring everyone’s voices are heard and the process is fair and transparent. We’re confident that by Saturday, when final results are certified, our lead will have grown, and the voters’ choice in the race for Agriculture Commissioner will be clear.”

On Thursday, both candidates urged supporters who had filed provisional ballots to follow through.

“If you cast a provisional ballot, make sure your vote is counted. Contact your Supervisor of Elections office **ASAP** before the 5pm deadline,” Fried tweeted.

Caldwell also pleaded with voters to check on the status of their ballots.

“This election is coming down to the wire,” he tweeted. “If you cast a provisional ballot we NEED you to contact your supervisor of elections by the 5pm deadline to make sure your vote for Matt Caldwell is counted.”

The Agriculture Commissioner contest was the first where the leader flipped as the counting of votes neared the 48-hour stage. However, two other seats are in play

But a U.S. Senate contest between Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson and Republican Rick Scott, who holds a 0.18 percent lead, continues to tighten.

And the gubernatorial election between Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum, which Gillum conceded Tuesday night, just moved into automatic recount range with a .44 spread.

Florida law requires a machine recount if the margin between candidates falls with 0.5 percent. A manual recount of votes will occur if, after the second machine count, the margin remains with 0.25 percent.

Andrew Gillum closes gap with Ron DeSantis ahead of expected recount

On Friday, nearly three days after ballots began to be counted, we still lack clarity in who the next Governor will be.

We do know there will be a machine recount.

With a vote lead of 36,211 with over 8.2 million ballots counted (rounding up to a 0.46 percent edge) Republican Ron DeSantis, the 40-year-old former three-term Congressman who took the nomination with the President’s blessing has seemingly defeated Democrat Andrew Gillum to become the next Governor of Florida.

Seemingly being the key word.

The Governor’s race, like the U.S. Senate and Agriculture Commissioner races, has margins under the 0.50 percent threshold that triggers a recount. The world’s eyes again are on Florida elections, and this one especially as provisional ballot verification (a typically Democratic stronghold) comes into play.

The Gillum campaign wants every vote counted: “On Tuesday night, the Gillum for Governor campaign operated with the best information available about the number of outstanding ballots left to count. Since that time, it has become clear there are many more uncounted ballots than was originally reported.

“Our campaign, along with our attorney Barry Richard, is monitoring the situation closely and is ready for any outcome, including a state-mandated recount. Mayor Gillum started his campaign for the people, and we are committed to ensuring every single vote in Florida is counted,” asserted a campaign spokesperson.

Gillum, addressing supporters during a Facebook Live appearance Thursday, noted that he’s still trailing DeSantis.

“I want you to know that in spite of the fact that we’re a little bit down in the numbers, we’re hopeful that every single vote will be counted in this race,” Gillum said.

The narrative has changed from Election Night when Gillum called DeSantis and conceded victory, before the margin dwindled from what was a more than 1 percentage point lead.

DeSantis thumped his chest in victory at the time, delighting his base.

“The pundit class gave us no chance … the political and media class seemed eager to write our obituary … On Election Day, it’s the voice of the people that rules,” DeSantis said.

And based on available information, he was right. His base prevailed.

But with something less than a mandate, DeSantis even then extended a rhetorical olive branch to opponents.

“I don’t care if you were against me in the campaign,” DeSantis added, saying that his goal was to work together for the state.

An ameliorating coda to an explosive campaign.

And a campaign that may not be officially over if yet another recount scenario comes into play here.

DeSantis isn’t worried about that, though.

“I was honored Tuesday night to be elected 46th Governor of the State of Florida.  The results of the election were clear.  I am now focused on the transition effort and will allow the legal efforts regarding the election to proceed, as is necessary, as the process unfolds,” he told us Thursday afternoon.

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This razor’s edge outcome is fitting for a battle of the bases, and a referendum both on President Donald Trump and the burgeoning progressive movement, that unlikely nominee Gillum has become a national leader of in recent months.

DeSantis, thus far, is the “apparent winner.” Though that doesn’t mean things will be predictable if he is inaugurated as expected.

While DeSantis has promised continuity with the Rick Scott era, those who have covered state government throughout Scott’s eight years know that some of the harshest battles were between the populist right in the state House and the more pragmatic Senate.

On the campaign trail and in outreach, DeSantis contrasted himself with Gillum, suggesting the Tallahassee Mayor’s policies are too far left for Florida.

The Ponte Vedra Republican pledged to veto any and all tax increases for the next four years, contending that a state’s low-tax environment is its greatest asset for expanding the economy. In contrast, Gillum in part ran on a corporate tax rate hike.

DeSantis, who has described himself as a “Teddy Roosevelt-Republican,” is outspoken on environmental concerns.

He railed against his primary opponent Adam Putnam for not faulting the state’s massive sugar industry for the proliferation of toxic algae blooms plaguing the Treasure Coast. He has promised to expedite the construction of a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee, expected to help ease the amount of toxic overflow into nearby estuaries.

Adding weight to his environmental policy platform was support from The Everglades Trust.

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But ultimately, the issues of the day didn’t define Florida’s race for Governor.

Republicans put forth a candidate hand-picked by President Trump.

Democrats selected a candidate who was once considered a long shot, arguably the most progressive to ever run for statewide office and the only African-American gubernatorial candidate in the state’s history.

Accordingly, Trump and race occupied the mind of nearly every voter in the most polarized statewide campaign in the modern era.

DeSantis kicked off his post-primary campaign by claiming that electing Gillum would “monkey this up,” before dealing with a number of racial controversies regarding supporters that culminated with Gillum saying in a debate, “I’m not saying you’re a racist, but the racists think you’re racist.”

Identity politics factored into this campaign in a way few expected before the August primary.

Before Tuesday, Trump would visit the state three times to rally for DeSantis. The President would periodically commend DeSantis via his Twitter account, and in the final weeks made a point of condemning Gillum’s leadership skills, calling Tallahassee “the most corrupt city” in the country — even suggesting Gillum “is a stone-cold thief.”

DeSantis defended Trump as the campaign closed.

“From an economic perspective and a results perspective,” DeSantis said, Trump’s message is a “good message for folks.”

“You people have to decide: if you’re more concerned about tweeting than results, I respect that. That’s your vote, you can do what you want. To me, it’s all about results,” DeSantis added.

In the backdrop, ethics scandals involving both candidates drove campaign narrative, though Gillum’s was more affected.

A two-year-long investigation into corruption in Tallahassee plagued Gillum’s candidacy. The Mayor had vehemently denied being a “target.” But DeSantis made it stick, even though Gillum has yet to be subpoenaed by the FBI, and the agency hasn’t commented on his vulnerability as a leader.

But eleventh-hour developments in a state ethics investigation separate from the FBI’s suggested Gillum is more implicated than previously thought.

A series of records released in late October linked Gillum to the FBI, showing in part that the Mayor may have accepted a ticket to the Broadway musical “Hamilton” from an undercover agent posing as a developer wanting to do deals in the city.

Republicans used the news as attack fodder, while the left countered with questions about $145,000 of taxpayer-funded travel by DeSantis, which included trips to Fox News studios to boost his candidacy.

The election, however, came down to those quintessential Florida constants: Base turnout and the disposition of the No-Party-Affiliated voters.

And in outreach, neither had a tangible advantage.

Fueling each candidate’s appeal to voters was a near-even cash race, which ended in excess of $106 million. Each candidate would surpass the $50 million mark in fundraising before Tuesday’s showdown.

In trackable money, DeSantis led by just $1 million, meaning cash ultimately wouldn’t decide who prevailed.

But if the primary election’s principles were any indication, money meant little, to begin with.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, DeSantis’ primary opponent, put more than $30 million into his race but lost to DeSantis, who spent around $16 million.

Gillum doled out less than $7 million ahead of the Aug. 28 primary and won against the other four Democratic hopefuls — all of which had outspent him.

Because DeSantis and Gillum bucked traditional political wisdom by beating the better-funded establishment favorites in the primary, the race was essentially impossible to forecast. The gubernatorial finalists in 2018 weren’t supposed to be there in the first place.

And while polls almost entirely showed Gillum ahead by some margin, even he dismissed them as junk science.

In this case, that appears to be right. But the recount may (repeat, may) change things.

Check back for updates.

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Tallahassee correspondent Danny McAuliffe and The News Service of Florida contributed to this post.

Marco Rubio on recount: Broward, Palm Beach failed to follow law

Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio went on the offensive to complain how Broward and Palm Beach counties elections officials handled early and absentee voting.

This comments came after vote tallies two days after Election Day flipped the Agriculture Commissioner race, tightened a voter gap in the U.S. Senate race and moved the gubernatorial totals into automatic recount range.

“Florida law requires counties report early voting and vote-by-mail within 30 minutes after polls close,” he wrote on Twitter. “Forty-three hours after polls closed two Democrat strongholds Broward County and Palm Beach County are still counting and refusing to disclose how many ballots they have left to count.”

Ironically, he tweeted after an influx of ballots came in from Suwanee County.

As Democrats step up their own efforts to hunt down votes and dispatch election observers to every county in Florida, Rubio digitally guffawed at the drastic vote changes tallied on Thursday afternoon.

He noted the swing in the Agriculture Commissioner contest, where Democrat Nikki Fried now leads Republican Matt Caldwell, whom Rubio endorsed in July.

Rubio said that since 3 a.m. Wednesday, a “slow drip” of votes from the two counties helped cut Gov. Rick Scott‘s lead in the Senate race against Sen. Bill Nelson from around 54,000 to 17,0000.

Importantly, Rubio did not call for officials to stop counting votes.

On Thursday evening, Scott said he has asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate Broward and Palm Beach counties’ Supervisor of Elections, calling them a “rag-tag group of liberal activists.”

“I will not sit idly by while unethical liberals try to steal this election from the great people of Florida,” Scott said during a news conference at the Governor’s Mansion.

Nelson’s campaign has aggressively promised to see a recount process through, promising they are in the recount game “to win.”

Importantly, the state remains in the midst of its first tabulation of votes. Should the margin between candidates in any race remain within 0.5 percent of total votes cast, Florida law calls for an automatic recount. Should the total at that point remain within 0.25 percent, then a manual recount will be triggered.

The Agriculture Commissioner and Senate race both fall within the manual recount margin now.

And today, the gubernatorial election between Republican (and apparent winner) Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum tightened to machine recount margins.

Health care not an elixir for Florida Democrats

Florida Democrats pushed health care as a top priority during this year’s elections, hammering Republicans for attempts to repeal Obamacare and the potential loss of insurance protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

Democrats also hoped support for a Medicaid expansion would help foment a “blue wave” that was supposed to wash over the state Tuesday.

After Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum and other candidates for statewide offices were defeated, the “blue wave” looks more like a blue puddle, with health care not giving the Democratic Party the shot in the arm it wanted.

Alan Levine, a key health-care adviser to former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, said while numerous polls indicated that health care was a top concern with the voters, the words “health care” mean different things to different people.

“When you looked at polling, health care ranked second or third, but you don’t know what that means. To some people, the issue of health care is being very upset because their premiums costs so much,” said Levine, now the president and chief executive officer of the Mountain States Health Alliance, the largest hospital and health system in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. “To others, it’s that they don’t have access.”

Florida Republicans have long fought the federal Affordable Care Act, the health care law commonly referred to as Obamacare. And Democrats were hoping to pounce on the health-care records of their GOP opponents. Democrats held regular media conference calls berating Republicans, including gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis and Gov. Rick Scott, who challenged Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

DeSantis won Tuesday night, though it became apparent Thursday that a recount might be triggered by the closeness of the race. Scott declared victory in his race against Nelson, but a recount is expected to be required.

Scott, a former health-care executive, was first elected in 2010 on an anti-Obamacare platform and — with the exception of a brief moment in 2014 — adamantly opposed expansion of Medicaid benefits to uninsured, childless adults under the federal law.

Working closely with the Florida House, Scott helped beat back the state Senate’s efforts to expand Medicaid in 2015. Later that year, he assembled a task force that examined health-care costs and in 2016 pursued legislation that would have capped what hospitals could charge patients.

This year, the Scott administration asked the federal government to give Florida the green light to eliminate a long-standing policy of retroactively covering hospital and nursing home bills for Medicaid-eligible patients. The policy would save nearly $100 million and impact about 9,000 elderly and disabled patients.

DeSantis, a former congressman, has sharply criticized the Affordable Care Act and government-provided health care.

But a debate in Congress about repealing and replacing Obamacare took place in 2017. And while there were protests across Florida about a possible repeal, that is a lifetime in today’s quick-paced political environment.

“In the news cycle phenomenon, health care is old,” said Florida political expert Susan McManus, adding that the “one-two-three punch” in the gubernatorial election were recent headline-grabbing issues that drove Republican voters to the polls in support of DeSantis. Those issues were the confirmation process of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, a migrant “caravan” heading toward the United States and allegations of ethical lapses against Gillum.

“Health care just wasn’t as powerful as those other things,” MacManus said.

Because health care is delivered locally, there’s a maxim that health care is a local issue, which could be why it didn’t transcend with voters statewide. But it did play a role in congressional Districts 26 and 27 which were won by Democrats Debbie MucarselPowell and Donna Shalala, respectively.

Mucarsel-Powell, a former associate dean at Florida International University’s medical school, criticized Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo on a number of issues and told The New York Times that it was his votes to repeal and replace Obamacare that inspired her to run.

Shalala, who was secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for President Bill Clinton, served as president of the University of Miami from 2001 to 2015. She won a seat Tuesday that was open because of the retirement of Republican Congresswoman Ileana RosLehtinen.

The South Florida districts are considered ground zero for Obamacare enrollment, with some of the largest number of enrollees in the state and nation. Miami-Dade County had nearly 395,000 people in a health-insurance exchange that is part of the federal law.

“The demographics of a district are important.” Levine told The News Service of Florida. “Take it to the bank. It came into play there.”

Statewide, more than 1.7 million people were enrolled in insurance plans through the federal health exchange this year. Many of them found coverage in the exchange with the assistance of Florida Covering Kids and Families. Located at the University of South Florida College of Public Health, the organization serves as the state’s main navigator for people seeking coverage.

Jodi Ray, director of Florida Covering Kids and Families, held out hope that the 2018 elections could be a turning point for the state’s health-care system. While she is able to help those who qualify for Obamacare policies, another 800,000 people in Florida don’t earn enough money to be on the exchange but don’t qualify for government coverage because the state didn’t expand Medicaid.

“We were hoping that there was a potential to bring that up in the future. That’s a shame that fight may not happen,” she said.

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