The Florida Cabinet returned to an all-Republican lineup Tuesday as outgoing Senate President Wilton Simpson was elected agriculture commissioner and Attorney General Ashley Moody and state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis won second terms.
The three Republicans were widely expected to win, as they dominated in fundraising and as the state Democratic Party did not focus on the races. Simpson defeated Naomi Blemur, while Moody beat Aramis Ayala and Patronis won over Adam Hattersley.
“It is so very important to remember that through all of this, these exciting times, through all of the pundits and the noise and acrimony and the commercials and propaganda, we are choosing people to trust to govern on behalf of we the people,” Moody told supporters Tuesday night just before the polls closed.
The candidates did not debate during the races, which were overshadowed by the campaigns for governor and a U.S. Senate seat.
Simpson, who served the past two years as Senate president and whose business interests include an egg farm in Trilby, will in January replace Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for governor this year.
“Floridians showed the rest of the country that common sense is bipartisan in a stunning rejection of socialism, woke ideology and the economic ignorance coming out of Washington and embraced by so many politicians who look down on, instead of lifting up the people we serve,” Simpson said in a prepared statement Tuesday night.
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The Cabinet was all Republican from 2011 to 2019, teaming with then-Gov. Rick Scott.
Fried, however, was elected in 2018. After taking office in January 2019, she regularly sparred with Gov. Ron DeSantis. She has been the only statewide elected Democrat.
Patronis and Moody, meanwhile, have regularly backed DeSantis, with Patronis saying in campaign literature that he was a “member of Gov. DeSantis’ cabinet.”
Simpson said he’d use the Cabinet position to bring a “loud voice, where we don’t go along to get along.”
As of about 9 p.m., Moody had received 60 percent of the vote in her race, while Patronis and Simpson were each at about 59 percent, according to the state Division of Elections website.
The Republicans each drew support from DeSantis and former President Donald Trump. The Democrats, meanwhile, had little money and relatively little visibility.
Blemur, a Miami native and the first Haitian-American to be a major-party candidate for a Cabinet seat, lost party support just ahead of the August primary election over past social-media comments opposing abortion and viewed as homophobic.
She sent out an email on Oct. 28 criticizing the treatment she received from party leaders.
“Despite winning the support of over 50 percent of registered Democratic voters in the state of Florida (in the primary), there are those within the party who still refuse to acknowledge me as the rightful nominee or to provide my campaign with the support generously given to other party candidates,” Blemur said in a release.
Ayala in 2016 became the state’s first Black elected state attorney, winning in the 9th Judicial Circuit in Orange and Osceola counties. Hattersley is a former state representative from Hillsborough County.
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