As significant as Democratic gains were in the 2018 elections, Florida stood out as a bitter disappointment for the party. Despite late polling that showed Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and gubernatorial hopeful Andrew Gillum (D) in the lead, as the returns came in on Tuesday night, it looked like both had come up short against far-right rivals.
Neither race was officially called, however, and as officials continued to work toward a final tally, Rick Scott’s (R) and Ron DeSantis’ (R) leads withered. By late yesterday, the margin in the gubernatorial race was down to just 0.4%, while the Republican advantage in the Senate was even smaller at 0.2%.
As officials continued to count vote-by-mail, provisional, and absentee ballots, hard-to-predict recounts beckoned. And just when it seemed the developments couldn’t get messier, Rick Scott made sure that they did.
Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday evening filed suit and asked for an investigation into ongoing ballot counts that he accused of being a partisan attempt by “unethical liberals” to steal the state’s Senate election.
Scott, who ran against incumbent Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson, alleged that the Broward County and Palm Beach County supervisors of elections were engaging in “rampant fraud.”
The governor requested that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigate the new ballot counts, which have narrowed his Election Night-lead.
The controversial Republican lashed out publicly last night at “left-wing activists” and “unethical liberals,” whom the governor/Senate hopeful insisted were trying to “steal” the election.
Much of the GOP ire has been directed at Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes – a former school principal who was appointed to her position by Republican Jeb Bush.
At least so far, Scott and his allies haven’t pointed to any evidence of actual “fraud,” and it’s not altogether clear what he’s asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to do.
In case this weren’t quite enough, the National Republicans Senatorial Committee has joined Scott’s lawsuit, and Donald Trump weighed in, claiming that unspecified “law enforcement” officials are examining a “big corruption scandal having to do with Election Fraud” in Florida.
Again, to date, no one has pointed to any actual “corruption” or “fraud.” At face value, this appears to be more about Republicans panicking over the prospect of the Florida elections failing to go their way.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), meanwhile, thought it’d be constructive to share an election conspiracy theory through a series of missives on Twitter. The Republican senator bolstered his argument by pointing to … nothing.
I won’t pretend to know how this is going to turn out, but for those of you thinking, “Of course the nation’s biggest election mess is unfolding in Florida,” rest assured, you’re not alone.
Postscript: Marc Elias, Bill Nelson’s lawyer in this process, was also the general counsel on Hillary Clinton’s campaign. When some Democrats called for recounts in 2016, it was Elias who said there just wasn’t any point – Clinton’s deficit was too significant and she’d lose anyway.
Yesterday, in contrast, Elias told reporters he’s “confident” that the Democratic senator would end up winning his re-election bid.