State House District 120 primary was close. Second-place finisher says it’s not over

Two days after Islamorada’s Jim Mooney won a close three-way GOP primary race for Florida House District 120, one of his two competitors is saying it’s not over.

Rhonda Rebman Lopez, who came in a close second place, announced Thursday afternoon that six people whose votes were not counted because the Monroe County Supervisor of Elections staff concluded their signatures did not match their absentee ballots are contesting that decision.

Therefore, Rebman Lopez said the winner has not been decided.

“Until all the votes are counted in House District 120, including provisional ballots and wrongly disenfranchised absentee ballots, we will never know the real results of this election,” Rebman Lopez said in a prepared statement.

Rebman Lopez said she spent all day Wednesday collecting affidavits and copying driver’s licenses of those six people. She also wants to wait to concede until provisional, overseas and other contested absentee ballots are counted in both the Keys and the small portion of District 120 that is in Miami-Dade County.

“I think that in this epidemic, we should go the extra mile to make sure every vote is counted,” Rebman Lopez said in an interview Thursday.

Mooney, a real estate agent and elected member of the Islamorada Village Council, declined to comment Thursday.

He won the primary by 149 votes more than Rebman Lopez. Alexandria Suarez, a prosecutor for the Monroe County State Attorney’s Office, came in third place. About 13,400 votes were cast.

Mooney eked out a victory by winning the Keys. However, even though the district is only in a small portion of South Dade, there are about as many voters there as in all the Keys. And, both Rebman Lopez and Suarez received substantially more votes on the mainland.

Rebman Lopez said state law gives her 48 hours to contact the people whose ballots were not counted, but she said she needs more time. A total of 26 Republican absentee ballots were not counted.

She said there were also around 20 ballots Miami-Dade election officials would not allow.

“Give me one more day, because I’m getting votes,” she said.

Rebman Lopez went on to criticize the Monroe supervisor’s office in the statement, saying, “No voter should ever be disenfranchised simply because the Supervisor of Elections did not make enough of an effort to verify the voter’s intent.”

The statement infuriated Supervisor R. Joyce Griffin, who said her staff makes every effort each election to track down voters whose signatures don’t match their ballots.

“The day we notice a signature doesn’t match, we mail a letter. If there’s a phone number, we call them. If there’s an email, we send an email,” Griffin said. “The woman lost.”

But Rebman Lopez insisted she thinks more should have been done, especially since she tracked down the six voters.

“Well, I called them and they answered on the first, second, or third ring. I went to their house, and they came to the door, so, what’s up with that,” she said.

Griffin said Rebman Lopez is not going to change the outcome of the primary.

“For her to say I didn’t do due diligence is ridiculous,” Griffin said.

Rebman Lopez angered a lot of Keys voters with a series of negative mailers targeting Mooney with criticisms insinuating, among other things, that he was a communist sympathizer.

They were either paid for by a political action committee she chairs or PACs tied to her financial backers.

Rebman Lopez countered that she too was targeted by negative mailers, and she said they were paid for by Mooney’s supporters. Mooney denied having anything to do with them, and records searches with the state did not show any obvious ties to his supporters.