Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher on Friday, and replaced the elected Democrat with an attorney with Republican Party ties.
DeSantis announced that West Palm Beach attorney Wendy Link would be replacing Bucher, but added that she has told the governor she will not run for the post in 2020.
DeSantis has won praise from Democrats over some of his early moves following the inauguration, but those warm feelings turned cold with the suspension of Bucher. The Florida Democratic Party slammed the decision as a “power grab.”
“In the United States, our elections are sacred and our elections supervisors are democratically elected,” Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo said in a statement. “The Governor’s recent power grab, removing Democrats from elected positions, including Susan Bucher, should be seen for what it is, a gross overreach and a politically motivated move to consolidate power and obstruct the will of the people.”
DeSantis coined a similar will-of-the-people phrase some 24 hours earlier, when he made a decision about reforming medical marijuana laws that stemmed from a Constitutional Amendment that voters overwhelmingly approved in 2016.
In the case of the Palm Beach Supervisor of Elections, DeSantis said Friday at a press conference that, “I think there were a train of problems.”
“It’s not just, there was a mistake here, a mistake there. It really tarnished the image of Florida. I want to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” DeSantis said.
Florida’s 67 Supervisors of Elections faced an unprecedented three statewide recounts after the November 8 election, but there were particular problems in Broward and Palm Beach counties, both helmed by Democrats.
Bucher’s office was criticized when it failed to meet the deadline for recounts of the Governor, U.S. Senate and Agriculture Commissioner posts, was well as two local races.
She defended herself at the time, saying that her office had only one scanner to use to recount five different races, and that scanner was continuing to overheat.
Mike Ertel, DeSantis’ recent pick to serve as Secretary of State, acknowledged those equipment problems in his letter to the governor recommending that Bucher be fired. But, he added, “Supervisor Bucher had years of foreknowledge that her county needed to buy new equipment, yet she chose not to.”
DeSantis said Bucher is accused of missing the recount deadline, as well as submitting what the governor described as submitting improperly completed ballots to a state canvassing board.
Bucher has not directly responded since the announcement was made public earlier on Friday, but did tell the South Florida Sun-Sentinel earlier in the day that “He’s going to have to prove I did anything wrong,” referring to DeSantis.
The Republican-controlled state Senate in Tallahassee will ultimately decide Bucher’s fate, which means she could be removed from office or maintain her current position.
The Governor also announced that he would be accepting the resignation of the other South Florida Supervisor of Elections who was severely criticized during November’s recount elections, Broward County’s Brenda Snipes.
Snipes came under fierce attack for the failures that occurred in her office during last November’s election. That led to her resignation in December, which was to become effective in early January. But before he left office, former Governor Rick Scott terminated Snipes, which compelled Snipes to rescind her resignation, and file a subsequent lawsuit.
Snipes is black and Bucher is Hispanic.
According to the Florida Bar, Link graduated from Duke University School of Law and was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1994.
She has several Republican ties.
In 2013, then Republican Rick Scott appointed Link to serve on the Board of Governors, for the State University System of Florida. She is currently on the board. Scott also had appointed Link to the board of Palm Beach State College.
In 2015, when former Florida governor Jeb Bush was campaigning for president as a Republican, his Palm Beach County campaign team listed Link as a co-chair, according to news accounts.
This is her bio from the Board of Governors:
Wendy Link , the Managing Partner and a founding partner of Ackerman, Link & Sartory, concentrates her legal practice in the areas of commercial real estate, asset-based financing, and general corporate law.
Wendy serves as Secretary/Treasurer of the Florida Colleges Trustee Commission, a designated division of the Association of Florida Colleges, and as immediate Past-Chair of the District Board of Trustees for Palm Beach State College.
In 2011, Wendy was honored by the Florida Association of Community Colleges with its Trustee of the Year Award. She is Chair of Florida Healthy Kids Corporation. She currently serves as a member of the Boards of Directors of the Economic Council of Palm Beach County, WPBT Channel 2, the United Way, the Forum Club of the Palm Beaches, BizPac, and a member of the Board of Supervisors for CityPlace Community Development District.
She has served on the Community Forum on Ethics for Leadership Palm Beach County, is a member of Leadership West Palm Beach Steering Committee, and the SunFest Special Needs committee. As a Past Chair of the Dwyer Awards, she still serves as a committee member. Her prior community service includes President of the Forum Club of the Palm Beaches, Chair of the Chamber of Commerce of the Palm Beaches, Chair of the Criminal Justice Commission of Palm Beach County, and President of SunFest of Palm Beach County. She also served as a member of the Boards of Directors of the ARC and The Education Foundation of Palm Beach County.
Wendy received her bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina and her law degree from Duke University School of Law.
Florida Phoenix deputy editor Diane Rado contributed to this report