Republican candidate Ileana Garcia has ousted Democratic Sen. José Javier Rodríguez by 34 votes after a manual recount process that ended Thursday.
Garcia pulled off the upset in Senate District 37 by just 34 votes out of more than 215,000 cast. Her win expands Republicans’ Senate majority to 24-16.
“It was the honor of a lifetime to serve my community in the Florida Legislature. Everything I accomplished to make people’s lives better was with your support so I thank you,” Rodríguez said Thursday after the results were official.
“Just now I wished Senator-elect Garcia well and remain committed to the issues that most impact us.”
In a statement, Garcia said she was “deeply humbled” by the outcome.
“I’m committed to take to Tallahassee the concerns of the residents of District 37 and I will work diligently on their behalf to make the American Dream a possibility for every hard-working family in our community,” Garcia said.
Incoming Senate President Wilton Simpson congratulated Garcia on the win Thursday.
“The people of Miami should rest assured that she has our support in her mission to clean up the Bay [and] ensure access to a world class education for every child through opportunity scholarships,” Simpson said on Twitter. “Welcome to the team, Sen. Garcia!”
Newly elected GOP Sen. Danny Burgess added his congratulations, stating she “ran a powerhouse campaign.”
“I can’t wait to work alongside you in Tallahassee,” Burgess added.
On Friday, Gov. Ron DeSantis also chimed in.
“Congratulations to [Ileana Garcia] on her victory in Florida Senate District 37. I look forward to working with Sen. Garcia this upcoming legislative session.”
When the original count was completed after Tuesday’s election, Garcia led Sen. Rodríguez 48.53% to 48.51%. That lead of 0.02 percentage points is well within the 0.5 percentage point window to trigger an automatic machine recount. Races with a margin within 0.25 percentage points require a manual recount as well.
The SD 37 machine recount ran from Tuesday through Wednesday. The manual recount portion took just one day to complete.
Garcia’s razor-thin margin oscillated as Miami-Dade County Election officials continued to count the votes. She led by 31 votes at the beginning of the machine recount process. That margin jumped to 33 votes before falling to just 28 votes entering Thursday.
The Rodríguez team has alleged foul play in the contest, as non-party affiliated candidate Alex Rodriguez courted nearly 3% of the vote in the contest. The Senator’s team has accused Republicans of recruiting a spoiler NPA candidate — who shares a last name with the incumbent — as a way to siphon votes from the Democratic candidate.
“Going forward, I urge an investigation into the straw candidate propped up by Republicans in this election,” Rodríguez added Thursday. “Confidence in future elections cannot be eroded.”
Incoming Senate Democratic Leader Gary Farmer also alluded to the issue in a separate statement on the race.
“Over the last week, we have seen the democratic process play out exactly as it should and we want to thank the Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections office for their hard work to ensure that every voter had the chance to make their voice heard,” Farmer said.
“It appears that a number of questionable tactics were used against Sen. Rodríguez, including the funding of a ringer NPA candidate with hundreds of thousands of dollars in dark money spending to siphon Democratic votes and millions more spent on lies about Sen. Rodríguez and his record. The people of South Florida deserve better and while this result is unfortunate, they can rest assured that Sen. Rodríguez will continue to fight for this community.”
Republicans, meanwhile, lobbed accusations that Democrats were interfering in the vote-curing process late last week, as a recount was on the horizon. A spokesperson for the Miami-Dade County Supervisor of Elections Office said no such fraud claims had reached their office.
SD 37 spans portions of Miami-Dade County, including Coral Gables, Key Biscayne, Palmetto Bay and Pinecrest.
The News Service of Florida contributed to this post. Republished with permission.