Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) announced a new secretary of state Friday after the incumbent tendered her resignation this week.
State Rep. Cord Byrd, a Republican whose district is in the Jacksonville area, was selected to fill the impending vacancy for the position that oversees Florida's election systems.
“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 statement. “I look forward to his successes ensuring Florida’s elections remain safe, secure and well-administered.”
FLORIDA SECRETARY OF STATE RESIGNS AHEAD OF MIDTERM ELECTIONS
Byrd has served all six years of his time in the lower chamber as a member of the Public Integrity and Elections Committee and has sponsored several pieces of legislation, including the Parental Rights in Education bill, dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" bill by critics, which restricts classroom lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity from kindergarten through third grade.
“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," Byrd said in a statement.
Democrats were critical of the move.
"The Secretary of State should serve the people of Florida, but Cord Byrd today was appointed because he will serve only Ron DeSantis," Nikki Fried, the Florida agriculture commissioner who is running for governor, said in a tweet. "This reckless appointment should make every Floridian question Ron DeSantis’ commitment to free, fair, and democratic elections."
The Secretary of State should serve the people of Florida, but Cord Byrd today was appointed because he will serve only Ron DeSantis.— Nikki Fried (@NikkiFried) May 13, 2022
This reckless appointment should make every Floridian question Ron DeSantis’ commitment to free, fair, and democratic elections. https://t.co/ndIOsFgjq4
Byrd's wife, Esther, was appointed by DeSantis to the state Board of Education in March.
Laurel Lee, the departing secretary of state, submitted her letter of resignation to DeSantis on Thursday. The letter said Lee's resignation is effective May 16.
"I am grateful for your support throughout my tenure, and I am honored to have been part of your vision for our state," Lee said in her letter, adding that she was looking forward to "what the future holds."
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There is some speculation that Lee is leaving the role to prepare a campaign for Florida's 15th Congressional District. The deadline by which candidates must qualify in order to run in the Senate, congressional, and gubernatorial races is in roughly one month.
The change in leadership comes just months before the November midterm elections. DeSantis is seeking a second term as governor and has raised over $100 million for his reelection campaign. He is often talked about as a top-tier Republican contender should he choose to run for president.