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Backroom Briefing: Transition for New Governor 'Can't Wait'

November 1, 2018 - 2:30pm
Andrew Gillum and Ron DeSantis
Andrew Gillum and Ron DeSantis

Time will fly for the next governor to get a new administration up and running between Tuesday’s election and the Jan. 8 inauguration.

At least that’s the message Florida TaxWatch is trying to send to Republican nominee Ron DeSantis and Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum.

As soon as the votes are counted, the winner needs to be engaged in recruiting underlings, from chief of staff to scheduling and appointment directors, establishing a review process for agency-head appointments, creating an inauguration fundraising committee and even changing the color schemes in the governor’s mansion.

During the two-month period, the winner will be inundated with well-wishers and will conduct initial meetings with new legislative leaders while having to get through the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays, which create different obligations.

And as soon as the inauguration is done, there comes the actual work of being governor, which includes submitting a proposed state budget by Feb. 3 --- a month ahead of the 60-day legislative session.

Former Gov. Bob Martinez, a Republican who entered office in 1987 while Democrats ran the House and Senate, was among those at Florida TaxWatch headquarters this week offering a “transition” handbook for whoever wins Tuesday.

“It is hard work. It will be long hours,” Martinez said, recalling his own transition and those he’s subsequently watched. “There are still remnants of the campaign, people who were campaign leaders --- they’re not going to be in government, but they’ll want to see you.”

DeSantis, a former congressman, has never served in Tallahassee and won the Aug. 28 Republican primary over state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who had a well-established network inside and outside the Capitol. Gillum, the Tallahassee mayor, also has never served in state government, and Democrats have been out of power for two decades.

Martinez noted he had several trusted business leaders already assigned transition roles while the campaign was underway, so he wouldn’t have to start from scratch the day after the election.

“Somebody has to get you the resumes. Somebody has to find the names,” Martinez said. “You have to have that immediate core immediately, from the moment you get elected. You’ve got to have some people around you that have already been thinking about this. You just can’t wait. You know you may not win, but you can’t wait to find out if you can win or not.”


Poll after poll since the Aug. 28 primary elections indicate that most Floridians made up their minds early about this year’s top-of-the-ballot contests.

And for all the buckets of cash that have been unloaded into the elections --- at least $169 million just into the U.S. Senate race between Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Rick Scott, according to --- not much has changed in the past two months.

This week, Texas-based Strategic Research Associates, in a poll for Gray Television, had Nelson, the Democratic incumbent, leading Scott, the term-limited Republican governor, by a margin of 46 percent to 45 percent in the U.S. Senate race. The poll had Gillum up 48-45 over DeSantis in the governor’s race.

CBS had it 46-46 in the Senate contest, with 8 percent of voters undecided, and Gillum up 47-46, with 5 percent undecided, in the governor’s race. The University of North Florida put it at Nelson 47 percent and Scott 46 percent, with 7 percent undecided, and the governor’s race at 49 percent for Gillum and 43 percent for DeSantis, with 7 percent undecided. Reuters put it at Nelson up 49-44 and Gillum up 50-44.

On Aug. 30, Public Policy Polling, a Democratic-leaning firm from North Carolina, had the governor’s race at 48-43 for Gillum, with the U.S. Senate contest favoring Nelson 46-45. Undecideds stood at 8 percent in the Senate contest and 9 percent in the governor’s race.

In between the primary and general elections, looking at more than 20 polls that included one or both of the top-of-the ticket contests, almost all found the differences between the candidates within the margin of error. A few had lower percentages of of undecided voters.

For example, the Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University Poll released last week found only 2 percent of Florida’s likely voters remained undecided “and 4 percent of those who name a candidate say they might change their mind in the next 14 days.”

Despite all these surveys, many taken as millions of Floridians were already casting ballots, the only numbers that count will emerge after polls close at 7 p.m. Central time Tuesday in the Panhandle.


Odds don’t favor a blue wave flipping the Florida Legislature, according to the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

While a forecast by the center suggests Democrats are positioned to pick up several state chambers in the country, they “have about one-in-four chances of taking the Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania state houses,” according to Carl Klarner, a consultant for the center specializing in state legislative elections.

Democrats could get close to splitting the 40-member Florida Senate. They have 10 members returning to the chamber and have locked up five additional seats through outright primary victories or facing only write-in candidates Tuesday.

Still, only a handful of the remaining contests may be competitive, and the center’s report likens the GOP’s chance to retain the majority in the upper chamber at 72.1 percent.

In the House, where the Republicans have held a near super-majority, the probability of the GOP maintaining control is a surprisingly lower 69.3 percent.

Klarner factors in incumbency, prior votes in the districts, Republican gerrymanders put in place after 2010 and how many people nationally say they’ll vote for Democrats in U.S. House elections.

“Overall, the Democrats are expected to pick up nine (state) chambers, but many of these flips will be in small states,” Klarner projected.

TWEET OF THE WEEK: “Some polls in Florida have shown Republican @FLGovScott leading Senate race AND Democrat@AndrewGillum leading governor's race. I've been interviewing voters at a few early voting sites in South Florida and have yet to meet a single split-ticket voter.” --- Patricia Mazzei (@PatriciaMazzei), New York Times Miami bureau chief.

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