Pete Antonacci, former Palm Beach County state attorney, dies at 74

Peter Antonacci, Broward County Supervisor of Elections, talks with the news media as...
Peter Antonacci, Broward County Supervisor of Elections, talks with the news media as vote-by-mail ballots are loaded into a truck for transport to a local U.S. Postal Service office at the Broward Supervisor of Elections Office, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020, in Lauderhill, Fla. Vote-by-mail ballots will begin going out to residents in Broward County Thursday. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)(AP)
Published: Sep. 23, 2022 at 9:25 PM EDT
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Pete Antonacci, who was once appointed by former Gov. Rick Scott to serve as Palm Beach County’s state attorney and most recently was tapped by current Gov. Ron DeSantis to oversee the state’s new elections crime unit, has died.

Antonacci, 74, died Friday of an apparent heart attack in Tallahassee.

The 74-year-old lawyer had been a Republican favorite for Scott when it came to finding a temporary leader for various state government jobs.

Antonacci served in a variety of capacities during Scott's two terms as governor. Scott appointed him to head the South Florida Water Management District in 2015 and then Enterprise Florida in 2017.

Scott also installed Antonacci as Broward County supervisor of elections in 2018 after suspending Brenda Snipes.

But Palm Beach County residents might best remember Antonacci from his short stint as state attorney in 2012. Scott appointed Antonacci to fill the remainder of the term vacated by Michael McAuliffe after the elected state attorney left office early to work for Oxbow Corporation, a petroleum-producing company owned by Palm Beach billionaire Bill Koch.

Earlier this year, DeSantis chose Antonacci to serve as director of the new Office of Elections Crimes and Security.

Scott, who is now a U.S. senator, and DeSantis both issued statements lamenting Antonacci's death.

"Pete Antonacci was a dedicated public servant and a devoted family man," Scott said in a statement. "Ann and I are devastated to learn of his loss and are praying for his family, friends and the countless Floridians who knew and loved Pete as we did. Pete was a proud Floridian, raised in Hialeah, and devoted decades of his life to serving Florida families as a prosecutor, master of the law and leader. When it came to his work, Pete could get anything done. From his time as my general counsel in the governor's office to being the Broward County supervisor of elections, Pete worked hard, with total integrity, and knew how to bring people together and solve problems. 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."

Broward County Supervisor of Elections Peter Antonacci looks over the overseas ballots during...
Broward County Supervisor of Elections Peter Antonacci looks over the overseas ballots during the Florida Primary elections, Tuesday, March 17, 2020, in Lauderhill, Fla.

DeSantis also touted Antonacci's life and career.

"Casey and I are deeply saddened by the passing of Peter Antonacci, director of the Office of Elections Crimes and Security," DeSantis said 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. His fighting passion will be missed, and his legacy will persist in the hearts and minds of many."

A two-time graduate of Florida State University, Antonacci had a decades-long resume serving under Democrats and Republicans. He was also appointed to various positions by past Govs. Bob Graham, Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist, who is the Democratic nominee for governor in the upcoming gubernatorial election.

"Gov. Crist extends his deepest condolences to Peter Antonacci's family, friends and loved ones," campaign spokeswoman Samantha Ramirez said in a statement. "Peter Antonacci was a dedicated and respected public servant with a long history of working with members from both sides of the aisle to better Florida. May he rest in peace."

Other positions for which Antonacci has served include deputy attorney general under Democratic Attorney General Bob Butterworth from 1991-97 and a member of the Florida Commission on Ethics.

Pete Antonacci, special counsel for the governor's office, left, asks a question of a witness...
Pete Antonacci, special counsel for the governor's office, left, asks a question of a witness during the Senate hearing of suspended Broward County Supervisor of Elections Miriam Oliphant, right, Monday, July 19, 2004, in Tallahassee, Fla. Henry Hunter, Oliphant's attorney, is seated center

Antonacci served as special prosecuting counsel in the 2004 Florida Senate hearing of former Broward County Supervisor of Elections Miriam Oliphant after Bush suspended her from office for "grave neglect, mismanagement and incompetence."

He also represented Bush's daughter, Noelle Bush, after her 2002 drug arrest.

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