Florida certifies results of contentious 2018 election

Trump-allied Republican Ron DeSantis was formally elected governor of Florida and outgoing Gov. Rick Scott elected U.S. senator on Tuesday when the state certified election results two weeks after tight margins prompted tumultuous recounts.

The Elections Canvassing Commission met at the Florida Capitol to certify the results of the Nov. 6 election after two weeks of contention and finger-pointing. The meeting lasted a mere five minutes.

The results: former U.S. Rep. DeSantis was elected by 32,463 votes out of more than 8 million cast, defeating Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. Scott defeated incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson by 10,033 votes.

In yet a third recount and the closest of any of the statewide races, Democrat Nikki Fried defeated Republican state Rep. Matt Caldwell by 6,753 votes for the Cabinet position of agriculture commissioner.

DeSantis was able to come from behind and decisively win the Republican primary with the help of President Donald Trump, who tweeted his support for DeSantis and campaigned with him in Florida. Trump returned to Florida two more times in the final six days before the election to help boost turnout for DeSantis and Scott.

DeSantis campaigned on continuing on the path Scott set for Florida and he's largely expected to govern in a similar fashion by attempting to cut government spending and regulations and trying to make the state more business friendly.

He'll also find working with the Republican-led Legislature less frustrating than Washington's gridlock. Incoming Republican Senate President Bill Galvano said he's met with DeSantis a few times and is anticipating a good relationship.

"If the level of communication that we have presently is an indicator of his willingness to work with the (House) speaker designate and myself and our members, I'm feeling pretty good about it," Galvano said. "There's a big difference between what we do here in Tallahassee versus what they do in Washington and for the most part it's a good difference on our side of the equation."

Results were presented to the commission by Secretary of State Ken Detzner in a short ceremony void of fanfare.

By law, the commission is made up of the governor and two of the three Cabinet members. But Scott said during the middle of the recount with Nelson that he wouldn't participate in the certification. Instead, Republican Sen. Rob Bradley, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who lost the Republican primary for governor to DeSantis, served as the commission. Bondi and Putnam participated by phone.

"The voters can be assured that the results that we just certified reflect the intent of the voters in this election. Everyone who we certified as winners were the winners," Bradley said. "Now it's time to turn the page and move forward with governing. The election season's over."

In 2014, Scott and all three Cabinet members declined to serve because each was on the ballot.

The recounts were reminiscent of the 2000 presidential election, when Florida took more than five weeks to declare George W. Bush the victor over Vice President Al Gore by 537 votes. Florida became the laughingstock of the world during the chaotic recount that decided the presidency.

Florida was under scrutiny this year as elections officials in Palm Beach and Broward counties struggled to count the vote. Scott and President Trump suggested there was fraud in the largely Democratic counties, and several lawsuits were filed during the process.

Lawmakers have said they will look at election laws during the 2019 legislative session to avoid future problems.