Pete Antonacci, whose decades-long career in Florida politics and government led to his appointment this year leading Gov. Ron DeSantis’ controversial elections security force, died on Friday at age 74.
Antonacci had an unparalleled career in state government and politics, having been appointed to various positions by five different governors from both sides of the aisle since the 1980s.
In July, he was chosen by DeSantis to lead the state’s new Office of Election Crimes and Security, which last month announced charges against 20 people for voting illegally.
DeSantis said in a statement Friday that he and his wife, Casey, were “deeply saddened” by his passing.
“He was a dedicated, tenacious, and assiduous public servant, lawyer, and respected professional — a friend to all in the State of Florida,” DeSantis said. “He vigilantly sought to uphold the law throughout his lengthy career as a deputy Attorney General, Statewide Prosecutor, General Counsel, Supervisor of Elections, and most recently as the newly appointed watchdog over Florida’s election security.
“His fighting passion will be missed, and his legacy will persist in the hearts and minds of many.”
The governor’s office did not identify the cause of Antonacci’s death, but the website Florida Politics, which first reported his death, cited a heart attack.
News of Antonacci’s death prompted praise and messages of sympathy from across the political aisle.
Sen. Rick Scott, who appointed Antonacci as his general counsel when he was governor, said Antonacci “knew how to bring people together and solve problems.”
“I was honored to call him a friend and proud to work with him. Pete will be terribly missed, but leaves behind a remarkable legacy of honorable service to our great State of Florida.”
“”Peter Antonacci was a dedicated and respected public servant with a long history of working with members from both sides of the aisle to better Florida. May he rest in peace.”
Tampa Bay Times editor Tom Tobin and Politics Editor Emily L. Mahoney contributed to this report.