Nikki Fried pulls ahead in 'too close to call' Florida agriculture commissioners race

Fla. secretary of state tells county election supervisors to plan for recounts

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist

Nicole Fried.

Two days after the 2018 elections in Florida, it’s looking more likely that several state and local races are headed to recounts, including one for the commissioner of agriculture.

On election night, Republican Matt Caldwell led Democrat Nikki Fried by about 12,000 votes, about 0.16 percentage point, however, as provisional, absentee, military and overseas ballots continue to come in that margin is narrowing.

“This is the closest race since we’ve seen here in Florida since Bush v. Gore in 2000 — we’re heading into a recount,” Fried said Wednesday.

The tide turned Thursday and Caldwell was down by more than 500 votes and Fried had pulled ahead, according to the Florida Division of Elections' unofficial election night results.

The difference is close to approaching what triggered the 36-day 2000 Bush-Gore recount, which was 1,784 votes.

The threshold for a machine recount is 0.5 points; a hand recount requires a difference of 0.25 percentage points.

"The race is too close to call," Fried's communication director Max Flugrath said.

Florida Democratic Party officials are watching the ongoing vote-counting processes closely.

Fried, if elected, would be the only Democratic cabinet member in Florida and the first woman elected as agriculture commissioner in the U.S. Her campaign put out a call Wednesday for “emergency recount” donations and her campaign.

Caldwell's campaign spokesperson Brian Swensen issued a statement Thursday evening, blaming the Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes for the delay in ballot counting.

“Over the past two days, Snipes' office has refused to give either an accurate count of outstanding ballots or where they come from, all while the Democratic candidates continue to pick up tens of thousands of new votes. Ms. Snipes’ office has a record of incompetence and illegal behavior. 

“Our legal team is going to pursue every option to ensure election results are counted fairly, accurately, and legally. Matt Caldwell will be Florida’s next Commissioner of Agriculture and the will of the voters will be upheld."

No official recount has been ordered by Florida's secretary of state.

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