Ron DeSantis Archives - Page 5 of 114 - Florida Politics

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.

Richard Corcoran, Matt Gaetz among Ron DeSantis transition team chairs

Governor-elect Ron DeSantis rolled out his transition team chairs Wednesday, and interesting names abounded.

Congressman Matt Gaetz, an unstinting DeSantis advocate from the time he launched his campaign, will fill one of the slots.

Outgoing House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who originally backed Adam Putnam in the primaries before mending fences after August, will fill another spot.

Two more spots are reserved for members of the old guard.

Senator George LeMieux, who served as a U.S. Senator from 2009 through 2011 and is now working as the chairman for Florida-based corporate law firm Gunster, Yoakley & Stewart., will fill another slot.

Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings, a former Senate president who served as LG for Jeb Bush, fills yet another spot.

All four have extensive Tallahassee experience, helping DeSantis to conquer the learning curve.

DeSantis campaign chair, Susie Wiles, will serve as Executive Director. And his former Chief of Staff, Scott Parkinson, will join the team as Deputy Executive Director.

“I’m proud of this strong leadership team. They will work to deliver a strong and seamless transition process,” said DeSantis. “I’m confident these individuals will ensure our administration is ready to lead on day one to make our state cleaner, safer and stronger for all Floridians.”

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.

In Florida recount, Democrats might be working too hard

Democrats all over the state including in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties are rallying volunteers to track down voters who may have cast a provisional ballot to ensure their vote counts.

Democrats are within razor thin margins in several state and local races throughout Florida. State law requires a machine recount if an election is within 0.5 percent. At 0.25 percent, it triggers a manual recount.

Agriculture Commissioner candidate Nikki Fried already is in manual recount territory. The South Florida Democrat needs just north of 4,000 votes to beat out Republican Matt Caldwell, a North Fort Myers state representative. 

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is trailing Gov. Rick Scott by 0.26 percent, less than 1,000 votes from a manual recount and already within machine recount territory.

The Governor’s race, as of now, puts Andrew Gillum just out of reach of a recount at a margin of 0.52 percent.

But Democrats’ efforts to track down votes might be excessive, according to Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer.

“The provisional ballot process is outlined in state statute down to what has to be in the envelope,” Latimer said.

When voters cast a provisional ballot, it goes into a sealed envelope that has to be signed and voters are given a receipt with identification that can be used to track whether or not it’s been tabulated.

There are a few reasons people cast provisional ballots rather than regular ones, Latimer said. One of the most common is that people aren’t registered to vote. Those instances are usually newly registered voters who registered after the deadline for the election in which they’re voting.

In that case, no matter who tracks them down, their vote is not going to count: “You can’t cure not being registered,” Latimer said.

Another instance in which provisional ballots won’t count are in cases of people voting at the wrong precinct.

Hillsborough County’s procedure for that is to notify the voter they are in the wrong precinct and then direct them to the proper precinct. Election Day voting requires ballots be cast at the appropriate polling place.

Supervisor of Elections
Latimer

“In some instances they will not take our advice to go to the right polling place and insist on doing it in the wrong polling place,” Latimer said.

Those votes will not count.

Provisional ballots that could tip some scales in this year’s contentious midterm election are those cast by voters who forgot their identification.

In those cases voters’ ballots are processed in much the same way as mail ballots. The voter signs a form, the ballot goes into the sealed envelope and then, later, the county’s canvassing board reviews the signature against the one on file.

If the signature matches and the person is an eligible voter, the vote is tabulated. If it doesn’t or they aren’t, it isn’t.

But voting advocates seeking to ensure all votes are counted — a noble effort no matter party affiliation — are encouraging voters to head to supervisors of elections offices statewide with their identifications to validate their votes.

In the case of voters who forgot their IDs, that’s not necessary.

There’s another area candidates could gain some votes post-Election Day. The Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections and others notify voters whose ballot signatures don’t match that on file.

Those voters are given the option to fill out an affidavit confirming they are who they say they are along with a qualifying identification — things like a state ID, drivers license, military ID or passport.

Voters in that situation had until Monday to do that. If they didn’t do it then, they can’t do it now. Their vote won’t count.

So, this massive statewide effort to help find more votes in hopes it might help Democrats who appeared to lose Tuesday night might simply be a case of duplicative work.

That’s not to say it’s not a valiant effort. “Maybe it brings an awareness to some of the people,” Latimer said.

Maybe that awareness will drive more people to the polls next time. Or maybe it will help people understand how to make sure their votes count before election results come in on Election Day.

There is one thing Latimer hopes voters walk away learning from this process.

“There’s a big myth out there that provisional ballots are bad,” Latimer said. “They’re not bad. It gives that person a chance to vote, and us time to research it to make sure it’s valid and gets counted.”

The Hillsborough canvassing board meets at 5 p.m. Thursday to tabulate or reject any remaining mail ballots that haven’t been counted, vet provisional ballots and prepare the county’s first unofficial election results for the Florida Department of State.

The process will likely change the vote counts and might add some tallies to candidates Democrats are hoping to nudge, but that’s going to happen with or without volunteers spending all days making calls.

Northeast Florida made Ron DeSantis happen, and its payoff is coming

While it can’t be argued that the support of President Donald Trump carried Ron DeSantis to what looks like a victory in the Governor’s race, there’s something no less important.

Support from Northeast Florida.

DeSantis, a Ponte Vedra Republican, represented the suburbs south of Jacksonville for two terms in Congress (a third term saw his district moved farther south).

It was clear for most of his tenure that Congress wasn’t his final destination though; a perception reinforced when he ran for the party’s Senate nomination briefly, until Sen. Marco Rubio decided to run for re-election.

Though a recount could still happen in the Governor’s race, the DeSantis team is already moving into that transition mode. And that transition has a Northeast Florida bow atop it.

Campaign manager Susie 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.

Wiles has now pulled three untested nominees to statewide wins: Wiles ran Gov. Rick Scott‘s successful 2010 campaign, and Donald Trump‘s 2016 general election victory. The Florida Democrats dissed her as a “fixer” when she was hired, and that’s exactly what she did.

Wiles, a lobbyist for the Trump-connected Ballard Partners, was able to drive her candidate’s appeal in 2018 the way she did for Trump in 2016: Massive wins in the exurbs and the sticks, while finding a way to continually deteriorate the ability of low and moderate-information voters to trust Gillum.

Also pivotal: Tim Baker, the political operative who had worked on DeSantis’ 2012 campaign. Baker, per one informed source, took over daily ops and realigned the consultant team.

These changes happened after the primary. And there was a lot of work before the primary to get Northeast Florida to come around to DeSantis.

At the beginning of the year, when the campaign was still a new concept and Adam Putnam seemed inevitable, Northeast Florida Republicans were cooler on DeSantis, often volunteering less-than-positive feelings about DeSantis, using a certain seven-letter scatology to describe him.

And while many local politicians, such as Jacksonville City Council President Aaron Bowman and state Sen. Aaron Bean, were unstinting in their enthusiasm for Putnam, there were strong indications that the power structure could be moved.

Key to the effort: Kent Stermon, the COO/CFO for “Total Military Management,” a longtime DeSantis ally who helped build a bridge to the Northeast Florida establishment in both fundraising and endorsements.

When endorsements were slow going for DeSantis, Northeast Florida pols were pivotal in changing the trend around the time of a DeSantis/Putnam debate in Jacksonville.

Ahead of that debate, the most recent Senate Appropriations chair, Rob Bradley, and incoming House Appropriations chair Travis Cummings issued a joint endorsement of DeSantis.

Cummings was Stermon’s college roommate, for what it’s worth.

Both gave more than words. Bradley donated $75,000 to DeSantis’s political committee via his political committee. Cummings donated an additional $25,000.

Each also went deep into defending legislative majorities. Bradley donated well over a million dollars to defend the Senate, and Cummings’ committee likewise invested a couple hundred thousand dollars between donations to political committees and candidates.

Another Stermon ally (Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams, whose political committee Stermon chairs) endorsed DeSantis the day of the debate. Williams, for a few hours at least, was in the Lt. Gov. mix.

And soon enough, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry offered an endorsement of DeSantis, his “brother from a different mother,” steps outside a city-funded program for underprivileged children.

“We agree on many things … Ron and I have similar backgrounds,” Curry related. “We come from working-class families. Worked our butts off to get a good education.”

Northeast Florida politicians, these days at least, don’t come from the legacy mold. While the donor class is as monied as anywhere, the area’s electeds are typically strivers from working-class backgrounds who found a way out, into prominent positions adjacent to the capital class.

And in DeSantis, who never represented Duval County and who actively lost Duval to Democrat Gillum, the Jacksonville donor class finally, improbably has its governor.

DeSantis, a pragmatist, is looking to govern, and looking for allies as he moves into his first executive position. Northeast Florida bought in when there was a lot of pressure not to.

And with its regional legislators well-positioned (including potential future chamber leader Sen. Travis Hutson and expected future House Speaker Rep. Paul Renner, whose districts overlapped DeSantis’ own), there is no better time for Northeast Florida than right now.

Senate, Agriculture races tighten; Governor contest nears recount trigger

The gap between Republican Rick Scott and Democrat Bill Nelson dropped down to 21,899 votes as more ballots from left-leaning Broward County finally went through election office scanners.

Meanwhile, Republican Matt Caldwell’s lead over Democrat Nikki Fried dwindled to 4,109 votes in the Florida Agriculture Commissioner race.

The developments in Broward continue as Democrats mount an increasingly aggressive posture and look toward a statewide recount.

Nelson attorney Marc Elias on Wednesday made clear the campaign saw the recount as a path “to win.” He will hold a conference call with reporters later today on the matter.

Fried for her part continues to issue fundraising calls regarding the recount.

“We are going to ensure that every vote is counted,” Freid tweeted last night. “In a race this close, everyones’ voices must be heard so the will of the people is upheld.”

Just to add to the intrigue, the Florida gubernatorial election, which Democrat Andrew Gillum conceded to Republican Ron DeSantis, now sits on the verge of an automatic recount as well. DeSantis’ margin of victory there slipped to 42,948.

Florida law requires a recount for elections with a margin of victory under 0.5 percent of the vote.

In the Agriculture Commissioners race, Caldwell’s margin of victory now sits at 0.06 percent.

In the Senate contest, Scott’s margin fell to 0.26 percent.

In the Governor election, DeSantis’ lead has dropped to 0.52 percent.

If the gap between totals after a machine recount falls with 0.25 percent of the vote, then a manual recount will be required by law.

But the shifts thus far all remain part of the first tabulation of votes.

Even two days after the election, Broward and Palm Beach counties, both counties carried by Democrats in the statewide races, have yet to report a complete count of vote-by-mail ballots to the Division of Elections.

In Broward’s case, the county has not yet completed its count of early voting ballots.

Additionally, most counties have yet to review and tabulate all provisional ballots cast in the election, and there’s also a 10-day window on overseas vote-by-mail ballots to come into elections offices.

Ron DeSantis, Brian Mast fight potential delay on Lake O reservoir

Governor-elect Ron DeSantis and U.S. Rep. Brian Mast expressed frustration over a land lease with potential to delay construction of a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee.

The South Florida Water Management District this morning will consider amending a land lease and executing a new agreement with New Hope Sugar Company on property in Palm Beach County.

“Given that the current lease does not expire until March and because we did not receive enough advance notice on this proposed vote to ensure that this extension would not delay construction of the EAA Southern Storage Reservoir, we urge the South Florida Water Management District to delay their planned vote tomorrow,” reads a joint statement from DeSantis and Mast.

DeSantis during his gubernatorial campaign repeatedly promised to complete a number of Everglades restoration efforts, including construction of the Everglades Agricultural Area Storage Reservoir Project.

As he prepares to be sworn in as governor, keeping momentum on the reservoir may become his first big battle.

Notably, Big Sugar spent heavily during the Republican Primary trying to stop DeSantis, a foe of sugar interests during his Congressional tenure, trying to prevent the Ponte Vedra Republican from securing the nomination.

Staff for the water management district recommends trustees today extend a lease with the Okeelanta Corporation and execute a new lease with New Hope Sugar on more than 16,000 acres in Palm Beach County.

Officials say that’s in the spirit of legislation signed by Gov. Rick Scott last year aimed at constructing the reservoir.

“The EAA Southern Storage Reservoir is a critical component of Everglades Restoration and our joint efforts to prevent harmful algal blooms,” reads the statement from DeSantis and Mast.

“We will not support any lease extension that could delay the construction of the reservoir in direct contradiction of the intention of both the United States Congress and Florida Legislature.”

President Donald Trump last month signed off on federal funding for the reservoir as part of a $6-billion water infrastructure plan.

DeSantis stressed his support for a reservoir during his push to victory in Tuesday night’s gubernatorial election.

Incoming House Speaker Jose Oliva names committee chairs

With the election behind them, the Republican-led state House is swiftly organizing.

On Wednesday, incoming House Speaker Jose Oliva, a Hialeah Republican, unveiled the committee structure for the 2019 and 2020 Legislative Sessions.

Filling in as Speaker Pro-Tempore is Rep. MaryLynn Magar, a Hobe Sound Republican. She replaces state Rep. Jeannette Nunez, who was elected Lieutenant Governor alongside Governor-elect Ron DeSantis on Tuesday.

The Republican Majority Leader is Rep. Dane Eagle, a Cape Coral Republican. Eagle replaces Estero Republican Rep. Ray Rodrigues. Rodrigues will instead head the Health and Human Services Committee.

Chairing the powerful Appropriations Committee is state Republican Rep. Travis Cummings, of Orange Park. He replaces former House budget chair Carlos Trujillo, who left the Legislature after being appointed Ambassador to the Organization of American States.

Cummings, elected to the Legislature in 2012, has served through six regular lawmaking sessions. During the 2018 Legislative Session, Cummings was among the 67 other legislators to pass the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act as a standalone bill. At the time, it came with an estimated $400 million price tag. He has yet to file any bills ahead of the 2019 Session.

Cummings received his masters in business administration from the University of North Florida. Before being elected to the Legislature, he served in a variety of roles at the local level in Orange Park, including a stint as Mayor of the town.

Much of Cummings’ sponsored bills have sought to benefit the Northeast portion of Florida he inhabits. And this will be the second year in a row in which that part of the state has direct representation in a powerful post in the Legislature. Fleming Island Republican state Sen. Rob Bradley chaired the Senate’s budget committee in 2018, helping to secure millions for nearby restoration projects in the St. Johns River and Keystone Heights areas.

Generally well-liked by legislators in both chambers, Sachs Media Group’s Public Affairs Director Herbie Thiele, a longtime observer of the Tallahassee’s political process, said Cummings “is a great appointment,” from Oliva.

And a close relationship with Bradley could mean that Cummings is better-equipped — almost like a quarterback understudy — to handle the budget negotiations in the later days of the upcoming session, Thiele added.

Eustis Republican state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan will take the reins of the Education Committee.

By vote, Sullivan has shown a demonstrated willingness to further expand school choice and charter schools in Florida. In 2017, Sullivan voted in favor of the “Schools of Hope” plan. The eventual law provided for “hope operators,” who could set up charter schools within five miles of “persistently” low-performing public schools. It also provided money for traditional low-performing public schools.

In 2018, Sullivan successfully championed two education-reform bills. Among those were HB 731, which provided greater flexibility to family-administered homeschooling programs. Another, HB 1279, changed accountability and transparency mandates for schools, requiring school districts to post financial summaries to their websites, among other things.

Sullivan also supported the House’s “Hope Scholarship” plan, a tax-credit funded program that allows students who are victims of bullying or other violence to receive public funding to move to private schools or other public schools.

The next two House Speakers in line also received committee chair appointments from Oliva.

Clearwater Republican Rep. Chris Sprowls, in line to preside over the House beginning 2021, will chair the Rules Committee. Palm Coast Republican Rep. Paul Renner, set to become Speaker in 2022, will chair the Judiciary Committee. Renner is a former Assistant State Attorney.

St. Cloud Rep. Mike La Rosa will chair the Commerce Committee under Oliva’s leadership. In the past, LaRosa has sought to change the state’s alcoholic beverage laws, including allowing “cooperative” advertising in theme parks. That measure, however, failed to pass in 2018 after reaching the House floor. LaRosa also has championed legislation that would pre-empt local regulation of vacation rentals, though that measure too died after reaching the House floor.

Overall, Oliva commended the talent of lawmakers now leading the chamber’s committees.

“I am blessed by a deep bench of talent to pull from when it comes to leading our committees and working with the Senate and Governor-elect DeSantis,” Oliva said in a statement. “The chairs named today are men and women of principle, integrity, and an unrelenting desire to serve the people of Florida.”

The remaining, all-Republican committee chairs: Hialeah Rep. Bryan Avila, Economic Affairs Committee; Daytona Beach Rep. Tom Leek, Public Integrity & Ethics Committee; Spring Hill Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, State Affairs Committee; and Monticello Rep. Halsey Beshears, Ways & Means Committee.

Background provided by Florida Politics Senior Editor Jim Rosica and the News Service of Florida.

Ron DeSantis win paves way for conservative court

Ron DeSantis’ narrow win in Tuesday’s election for Governor will bring an unprecedented expansion of conservative Republican power in Tallahassee.

Democrats haven’t won a Governor’s race since 1994. They haven’t controlled the state House or Senate since the mid-1990s. They lost their last Cabinet member in 2010.

Now, with DeSantis’ election, that conservative Republican influence will extend to the Florida Supreme Court, which has a 4-3 liberal majority that has blocked many initiatives advanced by the Republican-led Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott.

As he takes office on Jan. 8, DeSantis, a 40-year-old former congressman from Ponte Vedra Beach, will have the power to appoint three new members of the state’s highest court, replacing three justices who are part of the liberal bloc and who have reached a mandatory retirement age.

DeSantis, a Harvard-educated lawyer, has said that he will appoint conservative justices who are “solid constitutionalists.”

Talking to reporters Tuesday night in Orlando, DeSantis said his court appointees “will be very, very smart, very principled people, but they’re going to understand that their role is to apply the law and not rewrite the law.” He said the appointments will bring an end to “judicial activism” on the court.

The appointments may also have a lasting impact since voters approved a constitutional amendment Tuesday that will allow the new justices, as well as other judges throughout the state, to serve until they are 75 years old, up from the current mandatory retirement age of 70.

A conservative majority on the Supreme Court is likely to be more deferential to initiatives advanced by DeSantis and the Legislature, where the GOP on Tuesday maintained a solid majority in the House and at least 23 seats in the 40-member Senate.

But in his victory speech, DeSantis talked little about partisan politics and emphasized the need as the state’s next Governor to work with all Floridians, including those who opposed him.

“Political campaigns are a rough business and often about highlighting our differences. And, unfortunately, in this day and age they often spiral into outright demagoguery,” DeSantis said. “But governing is different. Governing is about getting things done on behalf of the people of Florida, keeping our economy going, improving our water quality and environment, promoting public safety and expanding educational opportunities.

“We need to build a Florida that is cleaner, safer, stronger and that will be my guiding light as governor,” he said.

DeSantis said one area where he might unite Floridians will be behind an effort to address the problems of toxic algae and red tide and on moving forward with plans to restore the Florida Everglades.

“I think the first priority in terms of what is really urgent for Florida is really getting us on a strong track on water quality and the environment,” he said.

DeSantis said he would use his relationship with President Donald Trump, who held campaign rallies for him, to advance the federal portions of the effort, including the creation of a reservoir near Lake Okeechobee to help divert and treat polluted water.

“I think you’re going to get tired of me calling you, asking you for things for Florida,” DeSantis said about Trump. “But I look forward to that. I think we’ll have a great partnership.”

DeSantis will also have willing partners in the Florida House and Senate. Incoming House Speaker Jose Oliva, a Miami Lakes Republican, was an early supporter of DeSantis. The newly elected Lieutenant Governor, Republican state Rep. Jeanette Nunez, a Miami, will also help DeSantis navigate the legislative process.

Lawmakers and the new Governor are likely to find common ground on issues such as tax cuts, opposition to expanding Medicaid and the creation of more educational “choice” programs like charter schools and scholarships to send students to private schools.

DeSantis is also a strong supporter of gun rights, meaning any gun-control efforts are not likely to advance, and is open to restrictions on abortions. In the Republican primary, he voiced support for a “heartbeat bill,” which would prohibit doctors from providing abortions if fetal heartbeats can be detected.

As U.S. Navy veteran who served in the Iraq war, DeSantis will also find legislative support for his efforts to support active military members and veterans in the state.

One of DeSantis’ biggest challenges will be moving from a legislative branch, where he served nearly three terms in Congress, to the chief executive of the nation’s third-largest state.

DeSantis is taking over a huge enterprise, and one of his first tasks will be shaping a state budget proposal for 2019-2020 that is likely to be in excess of $89 billion.

He also must appoint a host of state agency heads overseeing areas such as education, health care, transportation and prisons.

Even prior to Tuesday’s election, DeSantis said he was putting together a transition plan for taking over from Scott, who leads in a U.S. Senate race that is expected to require a recount.

“You have to put together a government. I mean that’s a lot of work,” DeSantis said. “We have been doing this quietly behind the scenes, not to be presumptuous, but just because you don’t have enough time. You have to start doing it.”

‘Look at what happened in Florida’: Donald Trump’s victory lap

Speaking for nearly 90 minutes on a myriad of topics, President Donald Trump offered a rousing defense of the GOP’s midterm performance Wednesday.

“Look at what happened in Florida,” Trump said. “We did unbelievably well, winning the Senate and the governorship against two talented people.”

Trump noted that “we weren’t expected to win” in Florida, framing the victories as a vindication of what he has done as President.

Throughout his remarks, Trump kept circling back to wins in Florida, where he rallied twice in the final week, while dissing a Congressman who didn’t want his help.

Echoing his Wednesday morning tweet in favor of Governor-elect Ron DeSantis, Trump spoke of the importance of DeSantis’ election in the framework of 2020.

“A man who happened to be a very smart person was running,” Trump said, noting that the Ponte Vedra Republican was “not given much of a chance.”

Regarding the Senate race, in recount territory currently, the President spoke of it as a done deal.

Democrat Bill Nelson “is a man who’s been in office 44 years or something. He’s not easy to beat. Rick Scott won and I helped him,” Trump said.

“I think it was a great victory,” Trump said, noting that “celebrities” came in to help Democrats Nelson and Gillum to no avail.

Trump said “The Governors’ races were incredible” with wins against “talented and skilled opponents.”

“Florida, Iowa, Ohio and Georgia … they don’t get much bigger than that,” the President said.

Trump also dismissed Republicans who stayed away from him in the campaign, such as U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who broke with Trump on immigration issues and rhetoric.

Trump pronounced the South Florida Republican’s surname in an exaggerated Spanish accent, as part of a group of moderates who rejected potential Presidential help.

Cannily, President Trump did endorse another Florida Republican Congressional candidate … one who had resisted a rally with him.

Michael Waltz will fill DeSantis’ former seat in Congress after a rousing double-digit victory over the well-financed Democrat Nancy Soderberg.

On Election Day, DeSantis enthusiastically and presciently said that Trump would help close the deal with swing voters.

“From an economic perspective and a results perspective,” DeSantis added, 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.

Florida voters seemed to on Tuesday, yet again, take the President’s word over that of his critics.

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