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                Florida reacts to Joe Biden winning the presidency

                Democrats urged unity and support for Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris. Few Republicans did likewise, with the notable exception of former Gov. Jeb Bush.
                Alexander McGreevy, 44, of St. Petersburg, celebrates with Biden Supports at the intersection of Tyrone Blvd N and Park St N Saturday, November 7, 2020.
                Alexander McGreevy, 44, of St. Petersburg, celebrates with Biden Supports at the intersection of Tyrone Blvd N and Park St N Saturday, November 7, 2020. [ JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times ]
                Published Nov. 7, 2020
                Updated Nov. 8, 2020

                Joe Biden may have lost Florida by nearly 400,000 votes, but there were plenty of well-wishers in the Sunshine State to congratulate his overall win of the presidency Saturday.

                U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa, a moderate Democrat, immediately echoed the conciliatory tone set by Biden, issuing a congratulatory message minutes after he was declared winner.

                “Now that this hard fought election is behind us, let’s begin to pull together to serve the land we love," Castor said. “President-Elect Biden has said that he will be the President not just for those who voted for him, but for all Americans. Let’s take him at his word. I pledge to build bipartisan bridges, continue my effort in Congress to crush the coronavirus, help folks get back to work and send our children back to school safely.”

                The highest ranking Democrat in Florida, Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried, tweeted a statement urging unity.

                “Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will start us on the path to reverse the chaos and divisiveness that Donald Trump and his enablers across the United States for the past four years,” Fried said. “President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are the right leaders for this charge to help heal our divisions and govern on behalf of all Americans, not just those who voted for them.”

                Rep. Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg offered a similar call for unity.

                Another moderate congressional Democrat, U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy, tweeted her support and call for unity.

                U.S. Rep. Val Demings, who had been considered as Biden’s running mate, tweeted her support later because at the time of the news that Biden had won, as she explained, she was at the graveside of July Perry, a Black voting rights advocate killed 100 years ago in the Ocoee Massacre.

                Republicans were mostly quiet by midday Saturday.

                One major exception: former Gov. Jeb Bush, who directed an encouraging message to Biden.

                “Congratulations to President-elect Biden,” Bush said. “I have prayed for our President most of my adult life. I will be praying for you and your success. Now is the time to heal deep wounds. Many are counting on you to lead the way.”

                Joe Gruters, the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, retweeted a statement issued by Trump’s campaign that quoted the president saying he wouldn’t concede.

                “Beginning Monday, our campaign will start prosecuting our case in court to ensure election laws are fully upheld and the rightful winner is seated,” it said. “The American people are entitled to an honest election: that means counting all legal ballots, and not counting illegal ballots.”

                U.S. Sen. Rick Scott issued a statement: “The voters get to decide who the president is. This is a close race and Donald Trump will and should use every avenue at his disposal to make sure every legal vote is counted.”

                Florida’s other Republican U.S. senator, Marco Rubio, later tweeted that the media doesn’t decide if claims of “broken election laws & irregularities are true.”

                He also tweeted encouragement to Trump’s pending legal challenge.

                Gov. Ron DeSantis, who this week has been featured frequently on Fox News raising doubts about the counting of mail ballots and urging Republican legislatures in those close states to set aside the popular vote and seat their own electors, was quiet on Twitter.

                Republican Cabinet members Ashley Moody, the state’s attorney general, and Jimmy Patronis, Florida’s chief financial officers, didn’t acknowledge Biden’s victory. The absence was especially notable in Patronis' Twitter feed, which by 2 p.m. Saturday congratulated seven recently elected state lawmakers, all Democrats, and his son’s soccer team, but not Biden.

                Oddly, after congratulating newly elected Democrats to the Senate, Patronis then implied Democrats vote more than once while Republicans follow the law.

                Related: How Florida’s top Republicans are navigating Trump’s assault on election results

                In Tampa Bay, Democrats enthusiastically celebrated Biden’s victory.

                Tampa Bay Times elections coverage

                ELECTION RESULTS — FLORIDA AND TAMPA BAY: See all races, statewide and in Hillsborough, Pinellas and other Tampa Bay counties.

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