U.S. Rep. Al Lawson says new Secretary of State Cord Byrd is bringing former President Donald Trump’s election lie philosophy to the Florida Department of State.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier this month appointed Byrd to succeed Laurel Lee as Secretary of State. When asked by reporters Tuesday whether he believes President Joe Biden fairly won the 2020 election, Byrd would only answer that Biden was “certified” as the winner and that he is the President. He also noted election “irregularities” in other states.
“What you hear from the rhetoric coming out of the Secretary of State’s Office with a new person over there, it’s just ridiculous,” said Lawson, a Tallahassee Democrat. “It’s really ridiculous to be not wanting to admit that there were no problems in the state of Florida.”
Despite Lawson’s characterization, Byrd did say Florida’s 2020 election was successful and accurate.
Byrd, a Neptune Beach Republican who served in the Florida House for more than five years, has been criticized for defending his wife, Board of Education member Esther Byrd, for her past comments on social media. She has expressed support for the Jan. 6 Capitol rioters attempting to stop Biden’s certification, Proud Boys and other extreme elements on the far right. Those elements have been spurred on by Trump’s repeated and unfounded lie that he won the 2020 Presidential Election.
The Secretary of State defended his wife’s comments as recently as Sunday.
“You bring a Secretary of State and he comes with that philosophy, he’s coming with the philosophy of Donald Trump,” Lawson said. “He’s not coming with the philosophy of the Supervisors and the people in the state of Florida who do this on a regular basis.”
As Secretary of State, Byrd will oversee Florida elections. He also is tasked with establishing the state Office of Election Crimes and Security, an upcoming law enforcement office within the Department of State dedicated to investigating voter fraud and other election complaints.
Lawson’s comments came after a U.S. House Elections Subcommittee meeting hosted in Tallahassee to discuss ballot access in Florida.
“It’s time to get politics out of elections like this,” Lawson said. “It’s not in the best interest of Florida. Florida is a very diverse state and to have the Trump philosophy is just unbelievable that you would see things like this continuing.”
Lawson, who has served in Congress since 2017, is up for re-election in November. However, he has not decided whether he will run again because the district lines in North Florida are still making their way through court.
North Florida could end up with district lines that are more favorable to Republicans, minimizing minority representation in order to comply with DeSantis’ view of the U.S. Constitution. Still, Lawson is confident the Florida Supreme Court will approve a version of the congressional district lines that hold closely to those the Court instituted in 2015.
“He’s asked the Supreme Court to say that they were wrong,” Lawson said. “That does not make sense.”
Lawson didn’t rule out challenging Republican U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn if the Court sides with the Governor’s Office.
“That’s something I would look at,” Lawson said. “I really think I’d be running in 5th Congressional District.”