Scott uses gov­er­nor­ship to ad­vance Se­nate hopes

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - Front Page - By An­thony Man South Florida Sun Sen­tinel

He is the can­di­date with ev­ery­thing to lose right now — and the pub­lic of­fi­cial with broad abil­ity to in­flu­ence the out­come of his own elec­tion.

Gov. Rick Scott’s dual roles high­light the con­flict fac­ing an im­por­tant gov­ern­ment fig­ure with of­fi­cial du­ties that can di­rectly im­pact his per­sonal po­lit­i­cal am­bi­tions.

In the com­ing days he and his staff will in­flu­ence ma­jor de­ci­sions come in the likely re­count of the his U.S. Se­nate race with in­cum­bent Demo­crat Bill Nel­son. Crit­i­cally, he’s Florida Sec­re­tary of State Ken Det­zner’s boss and Scott is a mem­ber of the three­mem­ber state Elec­tions Can­vass­ing Com­mis­sion, which is re­spon­si­ble for cer­ti­fy­ing the re­sults of the elec­tion.

On Sat­ur­day, Det­zner de­ter­mines if ma­chine re­counts of bal­lots will be con­ducted in close elec­tions. On Nov. 15, the

sec­re­tary of state de­ter­mines if the mar­gin is close enough to war­rant a man­ual re­count. On Nov. 20, the Elec­tions Can­vass­ing Com­mis­sion meets to cer­tify the re­sults. Many of the re­count rules are set in state law, but Scott has a role in how they’re car­ried out.

As more votes have been counted, and his lead lead over Nel­son has nar­rowed, Scott has come down on the po­lit­i­cal side.

Read­ing for six min­utes from a script, Scott spoke Thurs­day night as a can­di­date. He said he won the elec­tion and lashed out at out-of-state lib­er­als and lawyers he said were try­ing to “Steal the electin.

In the same speech, he spoke as the gover­nor of the state de­tail­ing a litany of prob­lems he said have plagued the elec­tions of­fices in Broward and Palm Beach coun­ties, es­pe­cially un­der the watch of Broward Elec­tions Su­per­vi­sor Brenda Snipes. The gover­nor said he was “ask­ing” the Florida Depart­ment of Law En­force­ment to im­me­di­ately in­ves­ti­gate what he said “may be ram­pant fraud.”

Scott’s ac­tion raised ques­tions, in­clud­ing why he’s sud­denly stepped up his con­cern af­ter nearly eight years as gover­nor – when his po­lit­i­cal fu­ture is at stake. “We’ve all seen the in­com­pe­tence and ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties in vote tab­u­la­tions in Broward and Palm Beach for years,” Scott said. Ear­lier this year, Scott’s of­fice said the Sec­re­tary of State’s Of­fice would send elec­tion ex­perts to Snipes of­fice dur­ing the 2018 elec­tion sea­son to “to en­sure that all laws are fol­lowed.”

Democrats ac­cused the gover­nor of nakedly choos­ing his own per­sonal in­ter­est over his re­spon­si­bil­i­ties as gover­nor. “Po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated & des­per­ate,” U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, a Palm Beach County Demo­crat com­plained on Twit­ter.

Steve Geller, a Broward County com­mis­sioner and for­mer Florida Se­nate Demo­cratic leader, said us­ing or threat­en­ing to sue the FDLE in this way “is a gross abuse of of­fice and con­flict of in­ter­est.”

So far, Scott has re­sisted a po­lit­i­cally ex­plo­sive ac­tion: sus­pend­ing Snipes from of­fice. Scott has broad au­thor­ity to re­move of­fi­cials for mul­ti­ple rea­sons, in­clud­ing mis­fea­sance, malfea­sance, ne­glect of duty, in­com­pe­tence.

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Pan­han­dle Repub­li­can who is a close ad­viser to Gov.-elect Ron DeSan­tis, said Fri­day that Scott should im­me­di­ately sus­pend Snipes and Palm Beach County Elec­tions Su­per­vi­sor Su­san Bucher and place their of­fices “un­der re­ceiver­ship of the sec­re­tary of state.”

If Scott took that ac­tion, he’d likely be seen as di­rectly act­ing to re­move some­one he views as an ob­sta­cle to his per­sonal goals. U.S. Sen. Marco Ru­bio, R-Fla., said a sus­pen­sion isn’t wise — for now. But, he told re­porters in a con­fer­ence call, “once this is all done, [Snipes is] cer­tainly a can­di­date for re­moval.”

One of Scott’s at­tor­neys, Tim Ce­rio, said there was no con­sid­er­a­tion of sus­pend­ing Snipes “at this time.”

In 2003, then-Gov. Jeb Bush re­moved Snipes’ pre­de­ces­sor, Miriam Oliphant, over botched elec­tions, cit­ing “proven, re­peated and con­tin­u­ing fail­ures” by Oliphant “to prop­erly man­age her of­fice and take the most ba­sic prepara­tory steps for the con­duct of elec­tions.”

Justin Say­fie, a Repub­li­can lawyer-lob­by­ist who splits his time be­tween South Florida and Wash­ing­ton, D.C., said Scott was in a tough po­si­tion try­ing to bal­ance his re­spon­si­bil­i­ties as gover­nor and a can­di­date for of­fice.

“It’s a chal­lenge, be­cause he’s both a gover­nor and a can­di­date at the same time,” he said. Say­fie is in­ti­mately fa­mil­iar with the pres­sures that come from those dual roles. He was an ad­viser to Gov. Jeb Bush dur­ing the 2000 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion when the gover­nor’s brother, Ge­orge W. Bush, was in a pro­tracted post­elec­tion strug­gle over votes in Florida.

Say­fie said there’s a check on a gover­nor who might be tempted to use his power to ad­vance his po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests. “Ob­vi­ously ev­ery­thing he does will be scru­ti­nized at an ex­tremely high level, so that kind of puts a check to some ex­tent on his ac­tions,” he said.

Kevin Wag­ner, a po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist at Florida At­lantic Univer­sity, said it’s a tricky bal­anc­ing act. “Some­times in when you’re in the mid­dle of a cam­paign it can be hard.”

MIKE STOCKER/SUN SEN­TINEL

Broward County Su­per­vi­sor of Elec­tions Brenda Snipes

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