Nikki Fried clings to recount lead; Matt Caldwell alleges Broward counted late ballots


Attorneys for Republican Agriculture Commissioner candidate Matt Caldwell say Broward County collected and counted thousands of votes after the election was over.

That’s enough to chip at or even erase Democrat Nikki Fried’s current lead. Results from a statewide recount show the Democratic candidate leading Caldwell by 5,307 votes, a slightly narrower lead than the 5,326-vote gap reported in the initial tabulation of the race.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner ordered a statewide manual recount of the election. The margin between candidates represents 0.06 percent of more than 8 million votes cast, well within the 0.25-percent trigger for a hand recount.

Caldwell’s legal team sued last week for records from Broward County, the seeming ground zero for Florida’s latest statewide recount news extravaganza. Those records were only turned over last night at 8 p.m.

The records showed more than 17,000 vote-by-mail ballots came in on Election Day or after, said Caldwell attorney George LeMieux. Of those, 6,873 did not get logged until after 7 p.m., after polls closed.

“If they come in after 7, they are not a valid vote,” LeMieux said. “To count them after 7 p.m. would be breaking the law.”

The Agriculture Commissioner contest remains the closest of three statewide elections forced to machine recount this year, and the margin between Fried and Caldwell appears likely to tighten based on reports of recount results.

Miami Herald reporter Alex Harris reports the recount in Broward County produced a decline in Caldwell and Fried’s totals, with Fried’s dropping by 765 votes from the first tabulation.

Caldwell on Nov. 6 declared victory in the race at a time when he led by more than 40,000 votes statewide. He told Florida Politics he believed at the time his lead over Fried was insurmountable.

But late tabulations, mostly from heavily Democratic Broward and Palm Beach counties, chipped at that lead over the next two days, and Fried ultimately pulled ahead last Thursday.

Fried’s own team has decried Caldwell’s legal challenges as “false and specious.” They say any assertion of voter fraud on Caldwell’s part “smacks of desperation.”

“All Supervisors of Elections are legally obligated to count all the votes and certify the tabulation by the Saturday following the election,” said Fried attorney Ben Kuehne. “There has been no evidence of fraud and any votes that were legally cast should count. Florida has no place for misleading complaints raised by losing candidates.”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


  • Sharon

    November 18, 2018 at 2:47 pm

    Don’t let the dems steal our votes sir . We know you won. We also know it’s about our guns

  • Bone spur president

    November 18, 2018 at 5:58 pm

    You’re an idiot! I think the repulsicans pissed off the women! Too bad there weren’t more women on the ballot! Pretty amazing a woman was voted in as agriculture commissioner!

  • Gene

    November 18, 2018 at 8:42 pm

    I’ve seen several articles suggesting what a brilliant campaign Nikki Fried led to win this race. Actually Matt Caldwell lost the race all by himself. The day he decided to join the #NeverTrump crowd his future in politics was ruined. A lot of Trump supporters including myself read the words he said about our President. To quote one of them, “While I will never vote for Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, I also cannot and will not vote for him (Trump) in the general election.” I took a page from your book Matt, “While I will never vote for Nikki Fried, I also cannot and will not vote for Matt Caldwell in the general election.” I voted for DeSantis, Scott, and everyone else with an R by their name…but when it came to Agriculture Commissioner I just left it blank. I’m sure enough other Trump supporters did the same to cost you the election. I have no doubt that you didn’t vote for Trump in the general election, and I didn’t buy into your 2018 “conversion” of supporting President Trump. The Republican Party will never turn back to the “good ole boys” party of the Bush family, Koch brothers, Paul Ryan, McCain/Flake wing that supports a big government globalist agenda. A wing of the party you unfortunately attached yourself to. Thank God for Trump’s victory as it exposed both the Democrat and many in the Republican party for the corrupt establishment insiders that they are. I even thought Jeff Sessions was a rock solid conservative prior to his stint as AG. It’s amazing how Trump’s presidency has gotten many politicians to reveal their true colors.

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