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By means of Jonathan Allen
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Jessica Furst Johnson used to be meant to fly from Washington to Orlando this week for a post-election Walt Disney International holiday along with her husband and their two babies.
As a substitute, Johnson, the 37-year-old basic recommend to the Nationwide Republican Senatorial Committee, discovered herself in Tallahassee, quarterbacking the GOP’s prison reaction to the two-recount Senate contest between Sen. Invoice Nelson, D-Fla., and Gov. Rick Scott.
Her reverse quantity on this battle, Democratic super-lawyer Marc Elias, had greater than 50,00zero Twitter fans, a resume that incorporates serving as the overall recommend on two presidential campaigns and a ream of profiles in nationwide publications. In the meantime, Johnson operated in relative obscurity from Scott’s marketing campaign headquarters.
The principle stakes for the 2 attorneys — and their events — had been at all times the similar: A U.S. Senate seat and the framework that may govern how Florida election rules are implemented and interpreted within the 2020 presidential election.
However for Johnson — a Sarasota local, a College of Florida regulation faculty graduate and an admirer of Scott’s — there used to be every other measurement to the battle.
“That is private for me,” she stated in a phone interview with NBC Information on Friday.
Now that Nelson has conceded, Scott can thank Johnson and her military of GOP attorneys for serving to keep his victory through in large part turning again the sprawling Democratic prison effort to problem the movements of election officers and more than a few sides of Florida statutes.
Regardless that Johnson is one among Washington’s predominant professionals on election regulation, she’s fast to indicate that she’s no longer a litigator.
“I’ve mad admire for the individuals who have accomplished the hand-to-hand battle,” she stated, spreading credit score.
As a substitute, as she downed almond-milk lattes, Johnson controlled the combat plan, which Republicans say integrated greater than 100 paid and volunteer attorneys running in courtrooms and at recount facilities around the state. Excluding for a 28-hour roundtrip scramble again to Washington previous this week to look her youngsters, Johnson choreographed the reaction from Scott’s marketing campaign headquarters.
Pals say Johnson used to be the best individual in the best position on the proper time for Scott and the GOP as a result of she’s ready to stay her cool in the course of chaos, organize other folks and duties, and analyze each prison and political questions with wisdom and judgment.
“She’s very even-keeled and at all times simple to paintings with,” stated veteran political attorney Elliot Berke, who’s president of the Republican Nationwide Attorneys Affiliation.
Brad Todd, a senior adviser to the Scott marketing campaign, stated Johnson used to be a godsend because the combat for the Senate seat moved from balloting cubicles to courtrooms and election supervisors’ places of work.
“A very powerful factor about Jessica is she is anyone who can organize a large number of other tasks with very other personalities and feature none of them disenchanted at her. Politics is complete of people that create battle as a device, and Jessica does no longer create battle,” Todd stated.
Early in her occupation, Johnson used to be a protege of Cleta Mitchell, some of the GOP’s best election attorneys during the last quarter of a century. Extra lately, she labored on the Nationwide Republican Congressional Committee, the place she began as basic recommend however later added tasks as deputy govt director and in the long run took fee of the gang’s impartial expenditure arm.
NRSC Communications Director Katie Martin, who additionally labored with Johnson on the NRCC, stated her mixture of political and prison skills is really uncommon.
“I’ve been looking at her be a badass for some time now,” Martin stated. “She’s anyone who has a political thoughts, who sees the optics of each scenario.”
Johnson’s political tuner went off at the morning of Nov. eight — two days after Election Day — when she noticed a cluster of tweets about Elias signing as much as assist Nelson. Regardless that she had made arrangements for possible prison skirmishes in tight races around the nation over the former a number of months, Johnson in an instant grasped that his engagement signaled a struggle.
In brief order, she referred to as her husband, Todd, who works for the Republican Governors Affiliation, to verify the youngsters could be sorted and booked a flight.
“I knew I used to be going to Florida,” she stated.