Florida Gov. DeSantis appoints Cord Byrd as Secretary of State

Secretary of State Laurel Lee, who is rumored to be eyeing a congressional bid, will step down Monday.

click to enlarge Florida Gov. DeSantis appoints Cord Byrd as Secretary of State
Photo via Cord Byrd/Facebook
Gov. Ron DeSantis has appointed Rep. Cord Byrd to be Florida’s next Secretary of State.

Byrd, a three-term Neptune Beach Republican, was rumored to be on the shortlist to replace outgoing Secretary of State Laurel Lee, who announced she would leave the administration Monday amid talk she would run for Congress. In Byrd, DeSantis will have someone largely viewed as an ally leading the department that heads election efforts when he appears on the ballot for re-election in November.

“Cord Byrd has been an ally of freedom and democracy in the Florida Legislature, and I am confident he will carry that mission forward as Secretary of State,” DeSantis said in a news release. “I look forward to his successes ensuring Florida’s elections remain safe, secure and well-administered.”

Byrd aligned himself with DeSantis early in the redistricting process, voting against the Republican-led Legislature’s proposed congressional maps when DeSantis said he would veto them.

“Under the leadership of Governor DeSantis, Florida has led the way on election security and preserving freedom for its residents,” Byrd said in the release. “As Secretary of State, I will make sure Florida continues to have secure elections and that we protect the freedom of our citizens in the face of big-tech censorship and ever-growing cybersecurity threats.”

In his nearly six years in the House, Byrd has served on the Public Integrity and Elections Committee each Session. He served as Vice Chair during the 2019 and 2020 Sessions. This Session, he led the State Legislative Redistricting Subcommittee.

Byrd has also carried several priority bills of DeSantis, including a 2019 ban on sanctuary cities that is currently in the courts, an E-Verify rule to enforce immigration law, and last year’s anti-riot law — legislation also under legal challenge that was inspired by the 2020 Black Lives Matter demonstrations. Byrd was also a prime co-sponsor on the Parents’ Bill of Rights and a 2021 cybersecurity infrastructure bill.

Byrd’s appointment followed DeSantis’ appointment of his wife, Esther Byrd, to the Board of Education in March. Beyond her relationship with Cord Byrd, she is known as a staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump who has made comments supportive of QAnon.

After the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riots, Esther Byrd offered a defense of those “peacefully protesting” the certification of the 2020 Presidential Election while alluding to “coming civil wars.”

“ANTIFA and BLM can burn and loot buildings and violently attack police and citizens,” Esther Byrd wrote on her personal Facebook page. “But when Trump supporters peacefully protest, suddenly ‘Law and Order’ is all they can talk about! I can’t even listen to these idiots bellyaching about solving our differences without violence.”

Cord Byrd had deleted his Twitter account following the Capitol riot but reopened it last month after billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk announced he would purchase the social media platform.

The Representative has been vilified by several Democrats, including during a spat on the House floor in February over pro-abortion rights protests in the House chamber. In another instance, former Democratic Rep. Omari Hardy likened Byrd to the devil during a 2021 committee meeting on a union dues bill.

Byrd initially announced he would run for Senate to replace Fernandina Republican Sen. Aaron Bean in Senate District 4. However, he dropped out of the Republican Primary after he and Jacksonville Rep. Jason Fischer endorsed Jacksonville Rep. Clay Yarborough for the seat. Byrd instead planned to run for a fourth in House District 11, his final term before facing term limits.

DeSantis appointed Lee as Florida’s Secretary of State in January 2019, shortly after winning his election as Governor. She was the second person DeSantis named to the post but a Blackface scandal forced Mike Ertel to resign shortly after he was appointed to the job.

Generally well-regarded on both sides of the aisle, Lee has been in the middle of a number of political battles around the administration of elections. Her office came under fire when the state’s voter registration website crashed on the last day to register to vote in the 2020 Presidential Election. She later told the Legislature an unnatural amount of traffic brought the site down that day, and that a deliberate attack had not been ruled out.

When Byrd steps into his new office in the Department of State, he will inherit a legal challenge to Florida’s congressional maps, which were drawn by DeSantis’ office and passed by the Legislature during a Special Session. Byrd will also oversee the Primary Election on Aug. 23 and the General Election on Nov. 8.

This article first appeared at Florida Politics
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