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Peter Antonacci, who Gov. Ron DeSantis recently appointed director of the controversial new Bureau of Voting Crimes and Security and a decade-long public servant, died Friday of an apparent heart attack.
“Casey and I are deeply saddened by the death of Peter Antonacci,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a statement. “He was a dedicated, tenacious, and hard-working government official, attorney, and respected professional — a friend to everyone in the state of Florida.”
“Throughout his long career as Assistant Attorney General, State Attorney, General Counsel, Supervisor of Elections and most recently as the newly appointed watchdog for Florida’s election security, he has been vigilant in trying to uphold the law,” the governor said. “His passion for battle will be missed and his legacy will live on in the hearts and minds of many.”
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The news of Antonacci’s death was first reported in a tweet on Friday afternoon by Peter Schorsch, editor of Florida Politics, a national news website about Florida politics and public policy.
Antonacci assumed the new position for DeSantis after serving as Chief Justice for the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings.
Earlier in his career, he held a number of high-profile positions under DeSantis’ predecessor, Gov. Rick Scott. These included — as noted by DeSantis — the governor’s general counsel, Broward County’s chief election officer, Palm Beach County’s attorney general, the executive director of the South Florida Water Management District, and the executive director of Enterprise Florida.
Senator Rick Scott: ‘a dedicated public servant and a devoted family man’
Senator Rick Scott called Antonacci “a devoted public servant and a devoted family man” and said he and his wife Ann were devastated to learn of his death.
“Ann and I pray for his family, friends and the countless Floridians who knew and loved Pete as we do,” he said in a statement issued by his US Senate office. “When it came to his job, Pete could do anything.”
“Pete worked hard, with absolute integrity, and knew how to bring people together and solve problems,” he said. “I am honored to call him a friend and proud to work with him. Pete will be missed terribly but leaves a remarkable legacy of honorable service to our great state of Florida.”
In his last position he worked under Secretary of State Cord Byrd, who praised Antonacci as “a steadfast official throughout his career”.
“My thoughts and prayers, and those of the staff who have worked closely with Pete, are with his family and loved ones,” he said. “The family have asked for their privacy at this time of grief.”
During his long career in state government, Antonacci was also top assistant to former Attorney General Bob Butterworth, a Democrat.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist expressed his “deepest condolences” to Peter Antonacci’s family, friends and loved ones in a statement issued by his campaign.
“Peter Antonacci was a dedicated and respected official with a long history of working with members from both sides of the aisle to better Florida. May he rest in peace,” said Crist spokeswoman Samantha Ramirez.
Antonacci told the Sun-Sentinel in 2018 that his parents immigrated to the United States from Italy and that his father pursued a career in the Navy. Antonacci said he was born in a military hospital near Washington DC and grew up in Hialeah.
“My father, 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 about wars.”
Antonacci attended Hialeah High School and Miami Dade College. He earned a Bachelor of Arts and master’s degree in urban and regional planning from Florida State University in 1970 and a Juris Doctorate from Florida State University College of Law in 1979. In 2018 he was inducted into the Miami-Dade College Hall of Fame.
Sergio Bustos is the business/political editor for Florida’s Gannett/USA Today Network. He lives in South Florida. Email: [email protected]