As machine recounts and legal fights continued in three statewide races in the Nov. 6 election, candidates leading the contests started to act like winners.
Gov. Rick Scott, who led in the race for a U.S. Senate seat, traveled to the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday for new-member orientation, putting on a display that his unofficial 12,562-vote lead over incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson assured him of victory.
Before Scott headed north, his campaign said the governor viewed the trip as starting “his mission of reforming D.C. and making it work for Florida families --- not career politicians.”
During the visit, he was among a group greeted by U.S. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, even taking part in a photo sent out with the tag line, “A warm welcome to the incoming class of Republican Senators.”
Republican gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis, meanwhile, quietly went about getting himself familiar with the state Capitol and the governor’s office, while his unofficial lead over Democrat Andrew Gillum stood at more than 33,000 votes.
DeSantis, who earlier announced a transition team topped by political guru Susie Wiles, started to name long-time Tallahassee insiders to his transition operation.
“We are excited to announce this great team of professionals who will help us build a larger staffing framework to serve Governor-elect DeSantis,” Wiles said in a statement.
Among those on the transition staff are James Blair, a longtime adviser to House Speaker Richard Corcoran who will serve as director of policy; and Chris Clark, a chief of staff for former Senate President Don Gaetz who will be director of recruiting.
Others on the team have worked for Scott, DeSantis’ former congressional office, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s office, and state Rep. Bob Cortes, R-Altamonte Springs.
Meanwhile, Democrat Nikki Fried, who held a narrow lead over Republican Matt Caldwell in the race for agriculture commissioner, sent out what could be considered her first job-related email --- even if it was from her personal Twitter account.
“Florida farmers & ranchers—if you suffered damage to working lands or livestock mortality due to#HurricaneMichael, the first sign-up period for disaster assistance ends this Friday, November 16th.,” Fried tweeted, with a link to a Southeast AgNet story.
Fried has also joined DeSantis in rolling out transition team leaders.
Former Congressman Patrick Murphy will chair the Fried team with Central Florida Congressman Darren Soto and Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaime was killed in the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
“Congressman Murphy, Congressman Soto, and Mr. Guttenberg bring experience, expertise and leadership that will ensure my administration can navigate the transition process successfully, bring in the right stakeholders and help build a strong team at the Department (of Agriculture and Consumer Services),” Fried said in a statement.
RECOUNT? NO PROBLEM
As lawsuits and protests swirled around a number of Florida’s 67 supervisors of elections offices, the vast majority of supervisors were able to go about the paces of recounting the Nov. 6 election totals in calmer atmospheres.
And that wasn’t lost on Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley, whose office was able Tuesday to wrap up its machine recount of some 141,000 ballots.
Earley told a reporter that the “ability to see really close up what is going on I think is hampered by the vitriol.”
Earley allowed reporters and ballot watchers to freely walk around the recount room within the county elections headquarters as his employees ran ballots through a pair of machines. MSNBC even gave live broadcasts from behind the canvassing board as members recreated damaged ballots.
But Earley acknowledged, if he was facing the pressure his colleagues in Palm Beach, Broward or Hillsborough counties have faced, the rules would have been a lot tighter around the canvassing board in Tallahassee.
“We’re trying to be as open as possible, but frankly if it was a lot of people really upset and angry in here, we wouldn’t let anybody back here,” Earley continued. “That may be self-defeating for us. But we have to protect the sanctity of this. If people want clarity, they have to act accordingly.”
NO TALK OF SPECIAL SESSION
In the bubbled world of Tallahassee, rumors started to spread before the polls closed of North Carolina-style special sessions by outgoing GOP politicos in case Democrats won statewide races.
With Fried ahead in the unofficial vote tallies for agriculture commissioner, such chatter intensified, especially over the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ handling of concealed-weapon licenses.
So far, however, there is no formal sign of a special session.
“There have been no plans or discussions, in any way, with respect to a special session to address any issue with the Department of Agriculture,” Fred Piccolo, a House spokesman said when asked about the issue.
Katie Betta, a spokeswoman for incoming Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, gave a similar response. “No. President-Designate Galvano has not been not involved in such a discussion,” Betta said.
The Senate will convene for an organization meeting at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. The House opens its organization session an hour later.
Both chambers will hold the first of six pre-session committee weeks starting Dec. 11. The 2019 legislative session will begin March 5.
TWEET OF THE WEEK: “I walked into my PhD class and all of my classmates applauded and congratulated me. Love my @UCF family.” --- newly elected state Rep. Anna Eskamani (@AnnaForFlorida), an Orlando Democrat.