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Caldwell concedes in Florida Ag Commissioner race

November 19, 2018

FILE- In this Nov. 2, 2019, Nikki Fried, Democratic candidate for Florida Commissioner of Agriculture, speaks during a campaign rally, in Miami. Republican state Rep. Matt Caldwell says he won't challenge his loss to Democrat Nikki Fried in Florida's agriculture commission race, a contest that was the closest of the three statewide seats that went through a recount. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Republican state Rep. Matt Caldwell said Monday he won’t challenge his loss to Democrat Nikki Fried in Florida’s agriculture commission race — a contest that was the closest of the three statewide seats that went through a recount.

Caldwell made his announcement in an email, the day after official election results were turned in showing Fried with a 6,753-vote lead out of more than 8 million ballots cast, or a difference of 0.08 percentage points.

In his concession, Caldwell said there were clear problems with the way the vote count was conducted in Broward and Palm Beach counties, but it would cost millions of dollars to continue challenging the results.

“I will no longer be pursuing a challenge to the outcome of this race. Accordingly, I have called Nikki Fried and notified her of my decision to not pursue the matter any further and I have offered to assist her in any way I can as she takes the office of Commissioner.”

Recounts were also conducted in Florida’s races for governor and U.S. Senate. Republican former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis defeated Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum by 32,463 votes in the contest to replace outgoing Republican Gov. Rick Scott. Scott defeated Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson by 10,033.

The election results will be certified on Tuesday. Fried will become the first woman to serve as Florida’s agriculture commissioner and she’ll be the only Democrat on the three-member Cabinet, serving alongside Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Attorney General-elect Ashley Moody.

She will also be the only Democrat serving in a statewide elected office after Nelson lost to Scott. Her victory was one of the few bright spots for Florida Democrats in this year’s election.

Fried is a lawyer and lobbyist who made medical marijuana one of the top issues of the campaign. She criticized the way the Republican-led Legislature implemented a 2016 voter-approved constitutional amendment that allows marijuana use for medical purposes and she promised to help make it easier for patients to access it.

As agriculture commissioner, she will oversee the issuing of concealed weapons permits. She was highly critical of the National Rifle Association during her campaign.

Meanwhile, Fried sent an email to supporters on Monday seeking donations to pay for the recount.

“The recount process was extremely expensive, so even though we won, we need your help,” the email said.

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