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Ginny Beagan, Wochit
Peter Antonacci, who Gov. Ron DeSantis recently named as director of the controversial new Office of Election Crimes and Security and served decades in public service, died Friday of an apparent heart attack.
“Casey and I are deeply saddened by the passing of Peter Antonacci,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis in a statement. “He was a dedicated, tenacious, and assiduous public servant, lawyer, and respected professional — a friend to all in the State of Florida.”
“He vigilantly sought to uphold the law throughout his lengthy career as a deputy Attorney General, Statewide Prosecutor, General Counsel, Supervisor of Elections, and most recently as the newly appointed watchdog over Florida’s election security,” the governor said. “His fighting passion will be missed, and his legacy will persist in the hearts and minds of many.”
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News of Antonacci’s death was first reported in a tweet Friday afternoon by Peter Schorsch, publisher of Florida Politics, a statewide news website covering Florida politics and public policy.
Antonacci took on the new position for DeSantis after serving as chief judge for the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings.
Earlier in his career, he held a series of high-profile jobs under DeSantis’ predecessor, Gov. Rick Scott. They included — as noted by DeSantis — general counsel to the governor, Broward County supervisor of elections, Palm Beach County state attorney, South Florida Water Management District executive director and Enterprise Florida executive director.
Sen. Rick Scott: ‘a dedicated public servant and a devoted family man’
Sen. Rick Scott called Antonacci “a dedicated public servant and a devoted family man” and said he and his wife, Ann, were devastated at learning of his death.
“Ann and I are praying for his family, friends and the countless Floridians who knew and loved Pete as we did,” he said in a statement issued by his U.S. Senate office. “When it came to his work, Pete could get anything done.”
“Pete worked hard, with total integrity, and knew how to bring people together and solve problems,” he said. “I was honored to call him a friend and proud to work with him. Pete will be terribly missed, but leaves behind a remarkable legacy of honorable service to our great State of Florida.”
In his latest position, he worked under Secretary of State Cord Byrd, who praised Antonacci as “a steadfast public servant throughout his career.”
“My thoughts and prayers and those of the employees who worked closely with Pete are with his family and loved ones.” he said. “The family has asked for their privacy during this time of grief.”
Over his long career in state government, Antonacci also was top assistant to former Attorney General Bob Butterworth, a Democrat.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist, in a statement issued by his campaign, extended his “deepest condolences to Peter Antonacci’s family, friends, and loved ones.”
“Peter Antonacci was a dedicated and respected public servant with a long history of working with members from bo sides of the aisle to better Florida. May he rest in peace,” said Crist spokesperson Samantha Ramirez.
Antonacci told the Sun-Sentinel in 2018 that his parents emigrated to the the U.S. from Italy and his dad served a career as a Marine. Antonacci said he was born in a military hospital near Washington, D.C., and grew up in Hialeah.
“My father, who is an immigrant, liked to say he served enough time for him and his sons,” Antonacci said. “He loved the Marine Corps, but he was skeptical of wars.”
Antonacci attended Hialeah High School and Miami Dade College. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in 1970 and Master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from Florida State University as well as a Juris Doctorate from Florida State University College of Law in 1979. He was inducted into the Miami-Dade College Hall of Fame in 2018.
Sergio Bustos is Enterprise/Politics Editor for Florida’s Gannett/USA Today Network. He’s based in South Florida. Email: email@example.com