DESTIN — Florida Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis' first priority when he takes office next month will be to make appointments to the state Supreme Court "to fill the spots of these retiring liberal justices," he told a cheering crowd at AJ's Seafood & Oyster Bar on Saturday.
DeSantis and Lt. Gov.-elect Jeanette Nuñez were in Destin as part of their "Thank You Tour" around Florida.
Three of the state's high court justices — Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince — have reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 and will leave the bench Jan. 8, the same day DeSantis, a former U.S. congressman, is inaugurated as governor. The state's Judicial Nomination Commission has already sent 11 names to DeSantis — seven appellate judges, two trial court judges and two lawyers.
DeSantis told Saturday's crowd of a few hundred people that he already had chosen three names, intended to signal "that we have ended judicial activism in Florida."
In other comments, DeSantis, a Republican who earned a narrow victory over Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, said he will pay attention to electoral procedures around the state during his term.
"It's important that these elections are run properly," said DeSantis, who singled out Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes, whose handling of this year's general election balloting has been criticized. Snipes, who rescinded her resignation earlier this month after Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order to remove her from office, should not be involved in any more elections, DeSantis said.
DeSantis said county elections offices across Florida operate smoothly overall, but he added that "a couple of counties continue to have these problems."
DeSantis also played up his Washington connections Saturday, telling the crowd he had recently met with President Donald Trump and his new acting chief of staff, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney.
"I think it's good for Florida to have people there who I know," DeSantis said.
In other election-related news, DeSantis told a small group of reporters he is not trying to slow the implementation of Amendment 4, a state constitutional amendment approved by nearly 65 percent of the voters that restores voting rights for most ex-felons who have served their sentences. He said he simply wants to be sure that implementation of the amendment doesn't allow people to vote whom voters did not intend to have that right.
DeSantis also had no comment when asked about the fact that Gillum had not been named in a federal grand jury indictment alleging corruption in Tallahassee government. At one point during the campaign, DeSantis had said Gillum was an example of "corruption in action."
But the primary purpose of Saturday's event was for DeSantis and Nuñez to thank local voters for their support in the close-fought gubernatorial contest, in which DeSantis and Gillum were separated by less than 33,000 votes.
"We appreciate what you did for us. We firmly believe you are the reason we came out on top," Nuñez said.
More than 71 percent of the voters in Okaloosa County voters opted for DeSantis over Gillum.
"Okaloosa came through really big for us," he said.