Ron DeSantis Archives - Florida Politics

Matching funds gave boost to statewide winners

With candidates setting a record this year for pulling in matching funds, Florida taxpayers contributed $4.2 million to the winning campaigns for Governor and three Cabinet seats, according to the final totals for the 2018 elections.

Another $5.65 million in tax dollars went to the campaigns of six unsuccessful statewide candidates, according to numbers posted Friday by the Florida Division of Elections.

Overall matching funds totaled $9,852,606, more than double the $4.34 million from the last midterm election in 2014 and easily topping the nearly $6.07 million in 2010.

Disparaged by critics as welfare for politicians, the program was approved by voters in 1998 as part of a constitutional amendment proposed by the Constitution Revision Commission. It provides matches for individual contributions of $250 or less to statewide candidates’ campaigns.

Republican Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis was the biggest recipient of the funds this year, receiving nearly $3.23 million, including $557,554 that rolled in after voters cast their ballots but as campaign finance reports continued to be submitted and individual contributions verified.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum received $2.62 million from the program, including $254,381 after the Nov. 6 election.

DeSantis and Gillum, whose campaigns and political committees collectively spent more than $99 million, each received more matching funds than any other candidate during a single election cycle in the program’s history.

Florida’s next Attorney General, Republican Ashley Moody, drew $478,903 from the matching-funds program, including $29,266 after the election.

In her victory over Tampa Democrat Sean Shaw, Moody spent $8.8 million through her personal account and the political committee Friends of Ashley Moody.

Shaw, who spent an overall total of $4.2 million through his campaign account and political committee, received $365,591 from the matching-funds program.

Republican Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who won a four-year term Nov. 6 after being appointed to the Cabinet post last year, received $334,604 from the matching-funds program. Patronis got a pair of checks after the election worth a combined $6,225.

Overall during the campaign, Patronis spent $6.8 million through his personal account and the political committee Treasure Florida in defeating Democrat Jeremy Ring. Ring, who didn’t participate in the matching-funds program, spent a total of $1.6 million through his campaign account and a political committee.

Agriculture Commissioner-elect Nikki Fried, the only Democrat in line to win a statewide post, got $158,507 from the matching-funds program. That included $40,880 after the ballots were cast.

Fried, through her campaign account and the political committee Florida Consumers First, spent a little more than $2 million in narrowly defeating Republican Matt Caldwell.

Caldwell, a critic of the program who didn’t take matching funds, spent nearly $5.5 million through his campaign and a political committee in this year’s election.

Make no mistake, Florida’s recount results were historic

A 12-day recount process in Florida ultimately failed to change the outcome of three statewide races. But make no mistake, the result of this ballot scrutiny was historic.

For starters, of course, this election marked the first time the Florida vote was close enough to send three statewide races—U.S. Senate, Governor and Agriculture Commissioner—to a machine recount.

But the motion in two of those races made history itself.

FairVote, a nonpartisan election reform group, released a study two years ago that looked at the history of statewide recounts dating back to the year 2000.

The study shows recounts for statewide races remain rare—only 27 races out of 4,867 statewide contests in 15 years ended up in a recount situation. Of those, only three such recounts—the 2008 Minnesota Senate race, 2004 Washington gubernatorial election and a 2006 Connecticut Auditor election—ever overturned the original outcomes of the races.

That hasn’t changed in the past three years, and presuming nothing changes in Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner contest this year, the Sunshine State won’t change the numbers either.

But the FairVote study also shows most recounts don’t significantly change the margins between the major candidates.

In fact, Florida still holds the record for margin shift. That’s from the 2000 presidential recount, the granddaddy of them all. There, an initial tabulation of Florida votes for president found Republican George W. Bush with a lead of 1,784 votes over Democrat Al Gore.

Few living here at the time will forget the dragged out legal and political fight that ensued over the next 36 days. The result, Bush’s lead dwindled to 537. That swing of a net 1,247 votes wasn’t enough to stop Florida’s electoral votes from delivering Bush the presidency, but it stood for nearly two decades as a record swing in totals before and after a recount.

That is until now.

Now, a machine recount in Florida’s three statewide races produced little shift. Republican Ron DeSantis’ lead over Democrat Andrew Gillum in the Governor’s race shrunk by one vote, from 33,684 to 33,683.

There was more motion in other races. The margin between Republican Rick Scott and Democrat Bill Nelson actually grew from 12,562 in the initial tabulation to 12,603. The margin between Democrat Nikki Fried and Republican Matt Caldwell dwindled from 5,326 votes to 5,307.

The little motion in the governor’s race did not force a hand recount of votes, and Gillum threw in the towel on Saturday. But the other races remained in the 0.25-percent margin to trigger a hand recount.

That produced significant motion in the races.

A Florida law passed in the aftermath of the 2000 recount says a hand recount only need look at undervotes and overvotes, not the entirety of more than 8.2 million votes in the race.

That means all candidates inevitably would gain votes as only ballots that didn’t register got this final look.

In the Senate race, the gap between Scott and Nelson dropped to 10,033 votes. That’s a 2,570-vote shift from the machine recount totals and a 2,529-vote shift from the original tabulation.

That’s more than double the shift in margin between Bush and Gore.

The manual recount also significantly changed the vote difference in the Agriculture race as well. There, the gap between Fried and Caldwell grew by 1,446 from the machine recount and by 1,427 from the original tally.

This means Florida lays claim to the three biggest shifts ever in the number of votes separating statewide candidates for office as a result of a hand recount.

That may alarm those who thought reforms put in place after 2000 guaranteed the initial tabulations of votes could be relied upon. But perhaps more disturbing may be that thousands of votes remain unaccounted for even now.

Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes, following the revelation a machine recount found thousands fewer votes than the initial tabulation, says her office has misplaced over 2,000 ballots.

Palm Beach County also missed a deadline on the machine recount, and didn’t start a hand recount of the Agriculture Commissioner race before the deadline to have it complete.

And Hillsborough County refused to submit its machine recount when it came up nearly 900 votes short of the initial tabulation.

In some cases, these actions may reduce the shifts in margin between votes in Florida’s biggest races. But in others, particularly that hand recount for Agriculture Commissioner in Palm Beach, it well could make the gap grow.

And none of this gets into some 150 votes in Bay County that may yet get tossed because they were sent via email or fax.

In any case, this recount proved historic, and cemented Florida’s notorious reputation as a home to election count controversy.

Andrew Gillum advises Ron DeSantis to prioritize diversity

A day after conceding Florida’s gubernatorial contest, Democrat Andrew Gillum offered advice to victor Ron DeSantis as he names an administration.

“Very quickly,” Gillum said, “bring in a diverse set of people.”

In an interview today with AM Joy on MSNBC, host Joy Reid asked what DeSantis should do after an election in which racial divides played a huge role, from DeSantis’ post-primary “Monkey This Up” moment to Gillum’s debate assertion that “racists believe he’s a racist.

Gillum said he remains concerned whether DeSantis has done enough to distance himself from fringe elements of the party.

“I was really disappointed to see him appoint Matt Gaetz to the transition team,” Gillum said.

Specifically, he called out Gaetz, a Panhandle Republican, for inviting Holocaust denier Chuck Johnson to the 2018 State of the Union.

“I don’t know if he is a known neo-Nazi,” Gillum said of Johnson, but he was “someone whose values are inconsistent, I would suggest, with a majority of people in my state.”

DeSantis invited Gillum for a summit to speak about the state’s future.

And as rhetoric escalated post-election about the U.S. Senate recount, The New York Times reports DeSantis actively sought to tone things down in the now-complete Governor’s race recount.

That may have prompted President Donald Trump yesterday to offer praise to Gillum on Twitter, calling him a “strong Democrat warrior.”

Gillum told Reid he would be fine meeting with DeSantis so long as it wasn’t merely a post-election “photo op” and provided “more of a sincere opportunity to have diverse voices at the table.”

“Mr. DeSantis, I would hope, would take this as an opportunity to acknowledge that half the people in this state voted differently, and they wanted a different outcome,” Gillum said.

“If he really means to be governor for all the people of the state of Florida and not just those that voted for him, that means he’s going to have to make some outreaches.”

And after a historically close election, one DeSantis won by 33,683 votes out of more than 8.2 million cast, Gillum said he wants election reform in Florida.

Gillum said in his opinion, one of the biggest problems with the election this year wasn’t during the recount but the fact that in Florida’s most dense (and Democratic) counties, early voting remains more limited. He called that “intentional voter suppression.”

“We need a statewide overhaul,” Gillum said, “that takes into account the fact that many of these counties, many of those counties in South Florida where you’ve got high Democratic participation, are not resourced in a way where they are able to have 21st century technology to count the votes and quite frankly to ensure that those who want to vote early have access to it.”

Gillum’s surprise primary win this year elevated his national profile, and Reid asked Gillum if he planned to run for President. Gillum laughed off the suggestion.

“I want to stay married,” he said, stating he and wife, R. Jai, planned a post-election vacation, and he would like to return to father duties attending his children’s soccer games.

He does plan to stay involved in state politics, and referenced passage of Amendment 4, which will automatically restore voting rights for 1.4 million ex-felons who already completed restitution to the state.

“We have 1.4 million people re-entering society who want a chance to be heard in this process,” he said.

He also discussed promoting a Medicaid expansion in Florida and fighting for better teacher pay.

“My eyes are going to be right here on Florida,” Gillum said.

Richard Corcoran for Chief of Staff? And other notes from inside the DeSantis transition

Even with his opponent retracting his concession while a recount of the election results was underway, Ron DeSantis has wasted little time preparing to take the reins of state government. Since as soon as the Friday after Election Day, the former congressman has sat in on a series of meetings and interviews designed to chart the course of his administration.

And now, with a second concession from Democrat Andrew Gillum and DeSantis named the clear victor, the Governor-elect can accelerate his transition plans.

Look for DeSantis to name a Chief of Staff immediately after — but not before — the Thanksgiving holiday, sources familiar with his decision-making tell Florida Politics.

That job, almost undoubtedly, would have gone to campaign maestro Susie Wiles, however she has told the Gov.-elect she plans to return to Jacksonville and her lucrative private sector role after the transition.

Initially, four political insiders — Shane Strum, Kathy Mears, Scott Parkinson, and Scott Ross — were thought to be in the running for the Chief of Staff position, however the shortlist is in flux as DeSantis plans to interview several more candidates for the job.

Meanwhile, Mears, a former chief of staff to two House Speakers and currently the chief lobbyist for Florida State University, has unofficially taken herself out of consideration, insisting that it’s not the right time for her to make a personnel move.

Ross, who was one of the very first people to encourage DeSantis to run for Governor, increasingly looks like he will remain in the private sector at top-flight firm Capital City Consulting.

One name that has been increasingly mentioned as a possibility for CoS is former House Speaker Richard Corcoran. Indeed, Corcoran has been a particularly active member of DeSantis’ transition team, speaking up often during policy meetings and personnel interviews.

However, the Corcoran-as-Chief-of-Staff rumor is just that, transition sources say — and the reasons why it’s not going to happen come from both sides: DeSantis doesn’t envision Corcoran playing that role and Corcoran is not interested in the position.

Although a Chief of Staff won’t be named this holiday week, DeSantis is close to announcing who will comprise his Inaugural Committee. Seeing one’s name on this list is a plum reward for supporting DeSantis during the campaign. Casey DeSantis is said to playing a key role in hammering out this list, which could be announced as early as Tuesday.

Additionally, the transition intends to announce more staff hires as soon as Monday.

One big question for DeSantis heading into this week is not about who will get such and such job but rather how does he plan to spend Thanksgiving?

Sources familiar with DeSantis’ schedule say he intends to take part in a charity event Thursday morning and then head out on a well-deserved Turkey Day vacation.

Firefighter unions played the worst hand ever in modern politics

In a single election cycle, Florida’s firefighter union destroyed relationships dating back nearly 20 years.

Why? Leaders of the Florida Professional Firefighters Union had out-and-out lied to membership. And because of that, the recently ended 2018 election cycle was nothing short of catastrophic for the FPF and its local Miami chapter.

The crux of the matter is that Dade Local 1403 opposed incoming Gov. Ron DeSantis and Lt Governor Jeannette Nunez, Attorney GeneralAshley Moody, Chief Financial OfficerJimmy Patronis, Senate President Bill Galvano, and House Speaker Jose Oliva — all of whom won.

It became one of the worst “all in” moves seen in state politics, orchestrated by a handful of neophyte political operatives: FPF President Jim Tolley, Chuck Lupo, David Perez (candidate and union district vice president), and Omar Blanco.

The Local 1403 president made it abundantly clear with his rally cry: ‘The FPF needed to stop sucking Republicans because the Blue Wave is happening in 2018.’

Since becoming president, Blanco pursued a personal agenda with union funds with little regard for what is good for the organization and its members. This came notwithstanding a record amount of favorable legislation passed by Republican legislators.

Adding insult to injury, Blanco, Lupo, and others convinced David Perez to run against state Sen. Manny Diaz, just two weeks before the qualifying deadline.

This group steered several hundreds of thousands of dollars of firefighter dues toward an ill-fated effort to elect Perez, despite the lack of support from firemen who openly questioned the chances of winning against Diaz, a lawmaker already possessing a strong track record supporting firefighter issues.

Additionally, Nunez led the effort to create the first ever public-private partnership between the University of Miami and firefighter organizations to craft and fund cancer presumption legislation.

Compared to Perez, Clearwater’s state Senator-elect Ed Hooper (a retired firefighter himself) received little money from the FPF.

Such blatant disregard for decades of consensus-building by large regional organizations (such as Palm Beach Firefighters and others) who made bi-partisanship the cornerstone of their political strategy will inevitably jeopardize rank-and-file first responders and their families.

The spectacular malfeasance went on despite the PBA’s unequivocal support for candidate DeSantis and his running mate.

The $64,000 question: Why did they do it and how much will it cost?

The answer is quite simple. Power hungry, unprofessional, partisan hacks have taken over unions for their own monetary benefit. They no longer represent what is best for members. Instead, they go with what is best for themselves.

First responders deserve better and need to clean house.

Everyone responsible should resign effective immediately. However, that probably won’t happen.

They need leaders such as Stan Hill, a former Local 1403 president who pursued bipartisan strategy; former FPS president Bob Carver; Al Cruz, another former 1403 president; and Shorty Brice, a former president of the City of Miami chapter. None of these individuals played partisan politics; they did what’s best for members.

After a similar (albeit not nearly as destructive) display of partisanship, Brice and his Palm Beach counterpart withdrew from FPF years ago. Their successors may now very well face a similar choice.

History, it seems, does repeat itself — and the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. It has become a matter of whether union leadership will heed Albert Einstein, or keep getting dragged down the abyss.

In politics, loyalty and honor are what matters. Unfortunately, these current union leaders have lost credibility.

But will they ultimately get what’s coming? No one knows.

The harm is already done.

With recount completed, Andrew Gillum concedes—again

Democrat Andrew Gillum formally conceded the race for Florida Governor for a second time.

Standing alongside wife, R. Jai, in a Facebook Live video and wearing an jacket for his alma mater Florida A&M University, the Tallahassee mayor formally brought to a close one of the most dramatic gubernatorial elections in state history.

“This has been the journey of our lives,” Gillum said.

The video (available below) posted shortly before 5 p.m., a symbolic acknowledgement that thousands of vote-by-mail ballots that could still be entered into state totals if verified by that time held no potential to close a gap of more than 30,000 votes separating Gillum from Republican Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis.

Setting a conciliatory tone, Gillum wished his opponent well.

“R. Jai and I wanted to take a moment to congratulate Mr. DeSantis on becoming the next governor of the great State of Florida,” Gillum said.

The concession came hours after Republican President Donald Trump praised Gillum as a “strong Democrat warrior” and “a force to reckon with.”

Gillum later tweeted similar sentiments to DeSantis, who responded with a conciliatory tone as well.

“This was a hard-fought campaign,” DeSantis wrote. “Now it’s time to bring Florida together.”

Gillum first conceded on Election Day as returns across the state showed DeSantis ahead.

But as late returns counted over the next two days put the race within a 0.5 percent margin, that triggered a machine recount for the Governor’s race and two other statewide contests.

That led Gillum to retract his initial concession.

In the following days, attorneys for Gillum closely watched recount proceedings as the Democrat toured the state encouraging the counting of every vote. Supporters for DeSantis and Gillum clashed in major protests outside elections offices in Broward County, where national media captured the friction of video.

The gubernatorial contest, though, was the least close of the three major races. The initial tabulation of the votes put DeSantis up 33,684, or 0.41 percent of more than 8.2 million votes cast.

After a machine recount, the gap shrank by one, to 33,683 votes.

While Gillum encouraged voters straight into Saturday to make sure their vote-by-mail ballots did not get rejected in error, he ultimately conceded minutes before the 5 p.m. deadline for voters to contact election officials.

Gillum said in his Facebook video, though, that his own fight for progressive values would not end with this race.

“Although nobody wanted to be governor more than me, this was not just about an election cycle,” he said.

“More than 4 million of you decided you wanted a different direction for the state of Florida… Your voices will continue to power us as we stand at the front lines right alongside you to make this a state that works for all of us.”

Gillum said he would still champion progressive issues as a private citizen. His first priority, though, will be on demanding Florida’s election systems be modernized so avoid the protracted and at times uncertain confusion about the election results this year.

“We need to update Florida’s election system and bring it into the 21st century,” he said.

Gillum had been a surprise Democratic nominee, surging just ahead ahead of the August primary on a platform endorsed by Bernie Sanders and embraced by the far-left of his party.

While Gillum lost, he championed passage of Amendment 4, which passed and will automatically restore voting rights for 1.6 million Floridians previously convicted of felonies.

The Democratic leader, who drew national interest in Florida’s gubernatorial contest, said his candidacy representing the start, not an end, to a progress movement in the state. He encouraged supporters to continue demanding change.

“You win that, yes in many cases through elections, but you also win that through the dedicated, committed and hard work that’s required to transform communities, to transform neighborhoods, to transform the state of Florida,” he said.

Democrats praised Gillum quickly upon his concession.

“You captured our moral imagination and called on us to remember that in Florida and our nation, great leaders don’t divide or demean but seek to unite and elevate all,” wrote New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker.

State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, an early supporter of Gillum, wrote: “You inspired a generation to for fairness and equality and softened the soil for the next progressive champion to fight for a Florida that deserves better. I’m ready for your next journey whatever that may be.”

Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro wrote: “He ran with class, integrity and a positive vision for the future that inspired millions of people in Florida and beyond. Great things ahead.”

State Rep.-elect Anna Eskamani praised Gillum and running mate Chris King for running “one of the most inspirational campaigns our state has ever seen.” “No matter who our Governor is, know that I am fighting for hardworking families everywhere,” she added.

Florida Democratic Party chairwoman Terrie Rizzo echoed the sentiment. “ are incredibly proud of you. Looking forward to continuing the fight with you,” she wrote.

Rizzo later released a lengthy statement praising Gillum’s run. “We could not be more proud of Mayor Gillum and Chris King for running a historic campaign, that inspired millions and gave people hope for a better Florida. We are grateful for the sacrifices you both made to run for Governor, and Florida is better because of your candidacies. We look forward to continuing the fight with you, and will keep working toward your vision to bring it home.”

And Tom Perez, Democratic National Committee chairman, suggested Gillum still had a bright future in politics. Perez wrote that Gillim “ran an inspiring campaign that energized millions of Floridians & sparked hope across the Sunshine State. He refused to get in the gutter with his opponent, & he never gave in to the politics of fear and division. Thank you for fighting the good fight.”

California Sen. Kamala Harris suggested as much in her own post, asserting Gillum’s “campaign inspired millions of people not just in Florida but across the country to create change in their communities. I know we haven’t seen the last of him.

U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy said she was proud to stand with Gillum and King. “Both of you, along with R. Jai, Kristen, & your beautiful families, led by such example and handled it with grace,” she tweeted. “Thank you.”

State Rep. Shevrin Jones remarked that Gillum still made history as Florida’s first black nominee for a major party, done at the same Stacey Abrams ran as Georgia’s first black woman to be a nominee and as Ben Jealous ran for governor in Maryland. “Regardless of the outcome, history was still made, and I am happy to say that I was part of it,” Jones wrote.

U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson made reference to the historic group of governor candidates as well. “You are all brilliant trailblazers who God has placed on a path to greatness. This is just the BEGINNING! KEEP STANDING!”

Cygnal Polling founder talks firm’s success in Florida midterms

While many polls missed the mark in Florida’s multiple statewide midterm races, some surveys nearly hit the nail on the head in what turned out to be a chaotic cycle.

Cygnal, a polling firm founded by Brent Buchanan, was one of the better pollsters in terms of the U.S. Senate and Governor’s races here in the state.

Buchanan spoke with Florida Politics regarding Cygnal’s success, as well as his view of the state of polling in general.

As detailed in a blog on Cygnal’s website following the initial vote tallies, the pollster pegged GOP candidate Ron DeSantis to win the Governor’s race by 0.6 percentage points. Many other pollsters had Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum leading throughout the race.

DeSantis holds a lead of 0.41 percentage points at last count.

Their Senate projection was a bit further off, though still well within the margin of error. Cygnal had Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson ahead by 1.8 percentage points. He’s currently trailing his GOP opponent, Rick Scott, by 0.15 percentage points.

And that projection of a 1.8 percentage point lead for the Democrat was closer than most. FiveThirtyEight’s “Lite” projection model, which focused just on polling averages, had Nelson up by 3 percentage points.

Buchanan talked about what goes in to pollsters’ forecasts to make them more or less accurate.

“The accuracy comes from correctly predicting what the turnout composition was going to look like,” Buchanan said. “We knew that it would be a bigger midterm percentage turnout than historical midterms, just because of the energy that you saw and the interest and enthusiasm.”

Sure enough, turnout in Florida was up by 24 percent over the previous midterm cycle in 2014.

“We did 76 surveys in Florida this year, so we got a good feel for how things were looking and feeling in different competitive parts of the state that helped inform our ability to project what we thought the turnout would look like from a composition standpoint,” Buchanan added.

Still, in a field based so much on science or data, hearing the terms “predict” and “project” might seem odd to some election watchers.

But pollsters are often tasked with making some assumptions. It’s obviously impossible to survey every potential voter. So pollsters contact a few hundred or a few thousand people, and then use the sample to project what the full electorate might do.

That can involve tweaking the numbers in different ways. For instance, if a pollster projects a younger voting population than normal, but didn’t get a lot of young people to answer a particular survey, the pollster may give more weight to the answers of those young people who did answer.

But Buchanan said Cygnal did its best to get accurate samples to begin with: “You try on the front end to make those assumptions as you field, so you don’t have to weight it as much on the back end.”

Buchanan says the firm tries to break down voting population by age, gender, geography and party registration, among other factors.

Even though Cygnal surveyed races in multiple states, its Florida numbers were among its best. So how did they come so close in the Sunshine State?

“The close nature of Florida politics helps,” Buchanan noted. “I don’t know who put this out there, but I saw somebody that said, ‘If Florida had to choose between ice cream and a punch in the head, it would be 50.1 to 49.9 [percent].’ So that’s just the nature of the beast in Florida Politics.”

That is, Buchanan says they pegged a narrower range of possibilities for Florida than they may in other states, given the history of close elections here.

And while questions have been raised about the state of polling over the years, Buchanan argues it’s the interpretation of the polls that need an adjustment, rather than the surveys themselves.

“I think the biggest problem is not that pollsters are getting it wrong, I think it’s that people are viewing polling through the wrong lens,” Buchanan said. “It’s really hard to make a decision off of a single piece of information, and I consider a single poll as a single piece of information.”

As discussed above, different pollsters might make different assumptions about the electorate. So given the same raw data, they can churn out different results based on those assumptions.

During its polling of several 2018 midterm races, The New York Times showed the public how much those numbers can change based on who’s projected to show up on Election Day.

Buchanan says Cygnal does the same in its private work.

“That’s what we’ve started to do this year, is to show our clients various scenarios in the polling data, not just giving them one piece of information,” he said.

The takeaway: Don’t base your predictions off one set of assumptions from one pollster. It’s a good tip to keep in mind, given that polling for 2020 is already well underway.

The Kiss-off: Donald Trump dubs Andrew Gillum strong warrior—in the ‘future’

President Donald Trump may have just directed his most damaging tweet yet at Democrat Andrew Gillum. He paid him a compliment.

“Congratulations to Andrew Gillum on having run a really tough and competitive race for Governor of the Great State of Florida,” Trump tweeted.

“He will be a strong Democrat warrior long into the future—a force to reckon with!”

While the tone read uncharacteristically kind, the grammar was decided past tense, serving as the latest and loudest of political assessments on the state of Florida’s gubernatorial race.

Namely, it’s over, whether Gillum concedes soon or not.

As President Trump’s words turned gentle, those of fellow Democrats grew increasingly loud. A growing number of leaders within Gillum’s party suggest in less subtle ways each day that this race is done.

“Every minute Andrew Gillum doesn’t concede at this point he looks worse and worse (or at least he does to me),” Democratic consultant Matthew Isbell tweeted Thursday. “It’s over. Move on.”

The gubernatorial vote this year did turn out historically close. Republican Ron DeSantis led Gillum by 33,683 votes after a machine recount, about 0.41 percent of more than 8.2 million ballots cast.

But the machine recount netted Gillum just one vote, and the margin, while close, wasn’t enough to trigger a hand recount, unlike the five other state elections that went to machine recount.

Gillum himself yesterday continued to urge voters to check on their absentee ballots. A lawsuit connected to the U.S. Senate recount led a judge to grant voters until 5 p.m. to verify their ballots.

But attorneys for the Division of Electionssay some 3,688 vote-by-mail ballots and 93 provisional ballots got rejected statewide for bad signatures. That’s not enough to make a meaningful difference in the gubernatorial election.

Gillum spokesman Kevin Cate stressed yesterday that the push to count every vote is about more than finding a path to the governor’s mansion for Gillum. “The @AndrewGillum campaign was doing something much bigger than just trying to win an election,” he tweeted. “And we did. And we still are.”

And Gillum has until the end of the month to challenge the election results.

DeSantis yesterday called results of the machine recount “clear and unambiguous,” and he marked the end of the recount by inviting Gillum to join him for a “conversation about the future of our great state.”

The only question still outstanding in the Governor’s race may be when Gillum feels ready for the talk—and when he finally speaks he will, once again, concede.

Steve Cona

Prepping for Hillsborough School Board, Steve Cona III resigns HCC board

Steve Cona III has officially resigned from the Board of Trustees for Hillsborough Community College, submitting a letter of resignation to Gov. Rick Scott on Friday.

“It has been a pleasure and a great honor being a part of Hillsborough Community College. I am so proud of all we have accomplished in the past five years, and I have no doubt the college will continue these successes in the future,” Cona wrote.  

Scott appointed Cona to the HCC Board of Trustees in 2015.  His position will remain vacant until a gubernatorial appointment is made. That’s not likely to happen until after January when Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis assumes office.

Cona resigned to serve on the Hillsborough County School Board. He ran against retired Hillsborough County Schools administrator Bill Person and won with 54 percent of the vote.

Cona is President of the Associated Builders and Contractors Florida Gulf Coast Chapter. The first-term candidate raised more money than his challenger, mostly from conservative political action committees.

Cona wants to work to create more sustainable and fiscally responsible business decisions on the school board, a skill that will be put to use as the district begins allocating funds raised by the one half percent sales tax increase voters approved to fund school district infrastructure and education programs.

The majority of that revenue will go toward repairing and replacing air conditioning systems at Hillsborough District schools and properties.

Cona also supports working with private industries to create skills-based learning programs for high school students so they can graduate career ready.

Person was a second time candidate, narrowly losing another race for school board in 2016. He’s a retired school teacher, principal and school administrator.

Cona will replace outgoing Hillsborough County School Board member Susan Valdes who did not seek re-election in order to run for a seat in the House of Representatives, which she won.

After winning Governor’s race, Ron DeSantis seeks summit with Andrew Gillum

Republican Ron DeSantis, the 40-year-old former three-term Congressman, has defeated Democrat Andrew Gillum to become the next Governor of Florida after a mandated machine recount.

The win was just 0.4 percent, a spread of 33,652 votes.

The gubernatorial race, like the U.S. Senate and Agriculture Commissioner contests, had margins under the 0.50 percent threshold that triggers a recount. With the margin more than 0.25 percent, DeSantis is Governor-elect, after one of the most spirited campaigns in Florida in decades.

Now, the path forward.

DeSantis described the results as “clear and unambiguous” in a statement before discussing the contest of ideas that characterized the campaign and inviting Gillum to share ideas.

“Campaigns are meant to be vigorously debated contests of ideas and competing visions for the future. The campaign for Governor achieved this objective as evidenced by historic voter turnout from people of all parties across our state,” DeSantis said.

“But campaigns of ideas must give way to governing and bringing people together to secure Florida’s future. With the campaign now over, that’s where all of my focus will be,” DeSantis added.

“And, to this end, I invite Mayor Gillum to join me in the days ahead in a conversation about the future of our great state. We have both traveled the state and met Floridians from all walks of life. Sharing these experiences will, I believe, help us unite our state and build toward unity on behalf of the people of Florida,” DeSantis said.

However, even before the state released its results, Gillum said the count wasn’t done.

“A vote denied is justice denied — the State of Florida must count every legally cast vote. As today’s unofficial reports and recent court proceedings make clear, there are tens of thousands of votes that have yet to be counted. We plan to do all we can to ensure that every voice is heard in this process. Voters need to know that their decision to participate in this election, and every election, matters. It is not over until every legally casted vote is counted.”

Vote counting isn’t fully over, but there is little chance of the Governor race going into a second overtime.

County elections officials are scheduled to file their official returns to the state by noon on Sunday, with the state Elections Canvassing Commission meeting Tuesday to certify the results.

A ruling Thursday by a federal judge leaves open the possibility of more votes in the race. U.S. District Judge Mark Walker issued an order giving potentially thousands of Florida voters a chance to fix their ballots by this weekend if they were rejected because of mismatched signatures.

But Walker rejected a request from U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who is trailing Gov. Rick Scott by about 12,600 votes in their Senate race, to extend the recount deadlines. Several counties reported they were unable to complete the machine recounts by the 3 p.m. Thursday deadline, including Palm Beach and Broward counties.

Gillum would need to cut the gap between him and DeSantis by more than 13,000 votes to get within the 0.25 percent threshold.

Gillum would also have up to 10 days after the certification of the election outcome on Tuesday to file a lawsuit contesting the results, according to state law. He had not done so as of Thursday afternoon.

However, his attorney Barry Richard told MSNBC earlier in the week that Gillum was “reviewing his options” on a lawsuit, expressing concern that the election showed that Florida’s laws are impacting “the fundamental right to vote.”

“He feels an obligation to ensure that votes are counted and not to sit back when we’re beginning to learn that they are not being counted for a number of reasons,” Richard told MSNBC.

DeSantis has been in Tallahassee frequently since Election Night, and he is already rounding out his transition and embryonic administration.

At least four people are in the running to become Ron DeSantischief of staffKathy MearsScott RossScott Parkinson, and Shane Strum, according to sources familiar with the interview process.

Campaign manager Susie Wiles, who guided the campaign down the stretch, is not in that mix; she will be returning to the private sector after helming the transition process.

Wiles and Parkinson are leading the transition process, with assistance from four heavy hitters: U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, former Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings, and former state House Speaker Richard Corcoran,

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.

While the rough outline of a DeSantis administration continues to emerge, less certain is the immediate future of Democrat Gillum.


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

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