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Will Florida Keys state legislative race will go to recount?

In Florida Keys’ District 120, James Mooney (left) faced Rhonda Rebman Lopez and Robert Scott Allen (not pictured) in the Republican primary. As of Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022, Mooney led Rebman-Lopez by less than 100 votes.

In Florida Keys’ District 120, James Mooney (left) faced Rhonda Rebman Lopez and Robert Scott Allen (not pictured) in the Republican primary. As of Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022, Mooney led Rebman-Lopez by less than 100 votes.

Incumbent Florida Keys state Rep. James “Jim” Mooney’s lead over challenger Rhonda Rebman Lopez remained razor thin the day after the Republican primary election, but probably not close enough to trigger a recount, according to election officials.

District 120 is considered Monroe County’s state legislative district because it includes the entire island chain. But it also includes the southern portion of Miami-Dade County, including parts of Homestead, and that’s what made Tuesday’s election so close.

Mooney, 71, won the Keys with 4,283 votes to Rebman Lopez’s 3,502. When factoring in candidate Robert Scott Allen’s 778 votes, Mooney received more than 50% of the votes from Republicans in the island chain.

But on the mainland, Rebman Lopez was way ahead of Mooney — 1,444 votes to his 751 But on the mainland, Allen received 366 votes in Miami-Dade, according to the county’s Supervisor of Elections.

Mooney received 88 more total votes than Rebman Lopez, a .79% margin of victory in the thre-way race. That’s not enough to qualify for either an electronic or manual recount, said Robert Rodriguez, spokesman for the Miami-Dade election supervisor’s office.

Rebman Lopez said Wednesday that she will wait until Friday to decide on whether to concede.

The race was a rematch for both candidates, who faced off in another tight primary contest in 2020, when Mooney won by only 148 votes.

Officially, the race is not over until all the questionable mail-in ballots are counted. Voters with mail-in ballots that elections supervisors flagged have until 5 p.m. Thursday to fill out the needed paperwork and provide identification.

There are 14 such ballots in Monroe County, R. Joyce Griffin, the Keys election supervisor, said Wednesday. There is also one provisional ballot, a ballot that could have been mailed in, but was delivered to a poll by a voter who did not provide ID, that needs to be validated before it is counted, Griffin said.

So in all, 15 votes are still in question, “but they’re not going to go to one candidate,” Griffin said.

There are still several ballots that need to be “cured” as well in Miami-Dade, but the exact number was not immediately available. Like in Monroe, the deadline for those ballots to be verified is 5 p.m. Thursday, Rodriguez said.

“So, we’re still looking at that on our side,” he said.

Mooney, who Wednesday maintained he won the race, is a former councilman and mayor in the Village of Islamorada. He is a real estate agent by trade and grew up in the Keys.

The campaign was once again defined largely by negative TV ads that questioned each others’ conservative bona fides. In her spots Rebman Lopez, 57, accused Mooney of not supporting Gov. Ron DeSantis’ agenda.

The state Republican Party, which supports Mooney, ran ads attempting to link Rebman Lopez with Andrew Gillum, the disgraced former Tallahassee mayor who lost to DeSantis in the 2018 gubernatorial race.

Mooney’s campaign raised $281,470 and Rebman Lopez’s raised $115,323, according to state elections records.

Rebman Lopez is a business owner who is president of PECO International Electric, a Miami-based company founded by her husband Jorge Lopez’s family that exports power equipment to the Caribbean and Central and South America.

The winner of the Republican primary will likely face Democrat Adam Gentle, a self-described anti-corruption attorney and “compassionate capitalist” from Key West, in November.

The George Washington University School of Law graduate spent much of his legal career representing low-income renters facing eviction, and he also took on pro bono cases focused on “protecting children, the elderly and the LGTBQ+ community,” according to his campaign website.

He was decisively ahead in both Monroe and Miami-Dade of his primary opponent, Daniel “Dan” Horton-Diaz, who is also an attorney.

In the Keys, Gentle had 3,953 votes compared to Horton-Diaz’s 2,889 votes. In Miami-Dade, Gentle was ahead with 1,383 votes to Horton-Diaz’s 1,358.

This story was originally published August 24, 2022 5:44 PM.

David Goodhue covers the Florida Keys and South Florida for and the Miami Herald. Before joining the Herald, he covered Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.

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