TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ Republicans wasted no time Monday in replacing Rep. Chris Dorworth as their choice for Florida House speaker in 2014-16.
They announced Rep. Steve Crisafulli as their new speaker-designate just minutes after a manual recount confirmed Dorworth's narrow defeat at the polls.
Democratic lawyer and retired firefighter Mike Clelland, a political newcomer, wound up 146 votes ahead of Dorworth. Both District 29 candidates are from Lake Mary in central Florida.
Dorworth last week wrote a farewell letter to fellow House Republicans, saying he did not expect the recounts to change the results, which proved correct.
Clelland had a slim 37-vote lead when regular ballots were counted Tuesday. That expanded to 123 votes after provisional ballots were counted Thursday, and then to 140 after a machine recount Sunday.
If Crisafulli can avoid a similar fate two years from now, he will succeed Rep. Will Weatherford, a Wesley Chapel Republican who will become speaker at the Legislature's post-election reorganization session on Nov. 20.
“I am proud of the way our Republican House members have handled the adversity that has come our way over the past week,'' Weatherford said in a statement.
Crisafulli is a real estate broker and agricultural businessman from Merritt Island on Florida's Space Coast. First elected to the House in 2008, he has strong roots in Florida politics. He is a cousin of Gov. Doyle E. Carlton, who held that office from 1929 through 1933, and grandson of Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Vassar B. Carlton, who served on the high court from 1969 through 1974.
In a statement, Crisafulli said he understands “the weight of responsibility'' that has been put on his shoulders.
Dorworth was weighed down by a bitter divorce and personal financial issues including a foreclosure and negative net worth of up to $3 million.
Clelland juggled his education with a 26-year career as a firefighter. He earned a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Central Florida and a law degree from Florida A&M University. He then started his own law firm in 2008 after retiring from the Longwood Fired Department as a battalion chief.