Gov. DeSantis taps state lawmaker as new secretary of state

FILE -Rep. Cord Byrd, R-Neptune Beach, makes his closing remarks on his sponsored E-verify bill during session Wednesday, March 11, 2020, in Tallahassee, Fla. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday, May 13, 2022 appointed state Republican Rep. Cord Byrd as the new secretary of state, following the resignation of Laurel M. Lee.(AP Photo/Steve Cannon, File) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday appointed state Republican Rep. Cord Byrd as the new secretary of state, following the resignation of Laurel M. Lee.

In a statement, DeSantis, a Republican, called Byrd a “staunch advocate for election security, public integrity, the fight against big tech censorship and the de-platforming of political candidates.”

"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.

Lee's resignation was announced Thursday. News outlets have reported that she is leaving the post as the state's top election official to run for Congress.

The office shake-up comes months before the midterm elections and follows a new law creating an office under the secretary of state tasked with investigating voter fraud, a top Republican priority. It also occurs as Florida is embroiled in a legal challenge to a new congressional map drawn by DeSantis' staff.

“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.

Byrd has served in the House since 2016 and has been a member of the chamber's committee on public integrity and elections since taking office, including two years as vice chair.

The governor's statement announcing the appointment highlighted Byrd's sponsorship of legislation banning so-called sanctuary cities in Florida — localities that provide added protection to immigrants — and a bill regarding the state's cybersecurity infrastructure, among other measures.

Rep. Angie Nixon, a Democrat and frequent critic of the governor, slammed DeSantis' pick in a statement shortly after he was announced.

“Florida’s top elections official should be a consensus builder whose sole focus is running free and fair elections for every citizen of our state. Cord Byrd is not that person,” she said. “He is unqualified in both his credentials and his temperament, has proved time and again he will put partisanship ahead of good policy, and is unfit to lead the elections department of a diverse state of more than 20 million people.”

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