Rep. Cord Byrd (R-Neptune Beach) has been appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis as Secretary of State replacing Laurel Lee who resigned apparently to seek the new Tampa Bay-area Congressional seat that is anchored in eastern Hillsborough County.
Secretary Lee, has from my vantage point done a good job maintaining the Department of State’s commitment to cultural programs and historical resources irrespective of her legacy on election supervision. It’s almost certain Byrd, given his background won’t take the care Lee did on the cultural side and will turn election supervision into a place to commit ideological purges.
Byrd has been one of the more radicalized members of an increasingly radical GOP in Florida. Cord, a graduate of the St Thomas University Law Center describes himself as a “gun lawyer,” was a primary sponsor of the anti-protest bill the legislature passed in 2021 as well as other pieces of controversial legislation. Oddly, Byrd touts himself as a champion of freedom, like the Governor even though political protests, which Byrd and DeSantis have sought to curtail are the purest form of free speech in the American Republic.
Governor DeSantis has pushed voter suppression efforts, election “security,” and even a police force related to elections (this despite the fact that the GOP has been the party more recently connected with election fraud in Florida).
“Under the leadership of Governor DeSantis, Florida has led the way on election security and preserving freedom for its residents,” Byrd said in a statement. “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.”
“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.”
Byrd’s wife, Esther, a supporter of the January 6, 2021 Capitol Insurrection was appointed to the Florida Board of Education by DeSantis earlier this year. Both Byrd’s have reportedly in the past supported QAnon conspiracies and other hard-end right-wing conspiracy theories.
As Secretary of State, Byrd will now have control of the state’s electoral police force and could slash cultural and historical programs (which seems to be in the DeSantis wheelhouse, as his lack of understanding or appreciation of Florida’s own history is among of the many galling things about his Governorship). As stated above, whatever my qualms about her handling of elections, I give Secretary Lee great credit for her continuation of cultural programs, steering the ship after “blackface” Mike Ertel, DeSantis original choice for the job resigned and her willingness to buck gambling interests.
Ertel was an alarming choice for the job as his work as Seminole County SOE was almost entirely from where I sit defined by partisanship, so Lee’s record in contrast to what Ertel’s likely would have been, is even more impressive. By picking Byrd, DeSantis essentially gets Ertel on steroids in the position.
I doubt Byrd will be as competent in the job – in fact, my fear is now we’re going to see this office, which should be an administrative non-partisan one as politicized by warped ideological crusades as any office in the state.
Be fearful, the worst lies ahead.