Breaking Information Emails
Get breaking information indicators and particular stories. The scoop and tales that topic, delivered weekday mornings.
Through Jonathan Allen
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Jessica Furst Johnson used to be intended to fly from Washington to Orlando this week for a post-election Walt Disney Global holiday along with her husband and their two young children.
As a substitute, the 37-year-old normal suggest to the Nationwide Republican Senatorial Committee discovered herself in Tallahassee, quarterbacking the GOP’s felony reaction to the two-recount Senate contest between Sen. Invoice Nelson, D-Fla., and Gov. Rick Scott.
Her reverse quantity on this combat, Democratic super-lawyer Marc Elias, had greater than 50,00zero Twitter fans, a resume that comes with serving as the overall suggest 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 legal professionals — and their events — have been all the time the similar: A U.S. Senate seat and the framework that can govern how Florida election rules are carried out and interpreted within the 2020 presidential election.
However for Johnson — a Sarasota local, a College of Florida legislation faculty graduate and an admirer of Scott’s — there used to be some other measurement to the combat.
“That is private for me,” she mentioned in a phone interview with NBC Information on Friday.
Now that Nelson has conceded, Scott can thank Johnson and her military of GOP legal professionals for serving to maintain his victory through in large part turning again the sprawling Democratic felony effort to problem the movements of election officers and more than a few facets of Florida statutes.
Although Johnson is certainly one of Washington’s most important professionals on election legislation, she’s fast to show that she’s now not a litigator.
“I’ve mad appreciate for the individuals who have finished the hand-to-hand fight,” she mentioned, spreading credit score.
As a substitute, as she downed almond-milk lattes, Johnson controlled the struggle plan, which Republicans say incorporated greater than 100 paid and volunteer legal professionals running in courtrooms and at recount facilities around the state. With the exception of for a 28-hour roundtrip scramble again to Washington previous this week to peer her children, Johnson choreographed the reaction from Scott’s marketing campaign headquarters.
Buddies say Johnson used to be in the best particular person in the best position on the proper time for Scott and the GOP as a result of she’s in a position to stay her cool in the course of chaos, organize other folks and duties, and analyze each felony and political questions with wisdom and judgment.
“She’s very even-keeled and all the time simple to paintings with,” mentioned veteran political legal professional Elliot Berke, who’s president of the Republican Nationwide Legal professionals Affiliation.
Brad Todd, a senior adviser to the Scott marketing campaign, mentioned Johnson used to be a godsend because the struggle for the Senate seat moved from vote casting cubicles to courtrooms and election supervisors’ workplaces.
“An important factor about Jessica is she is any person who can organize numerous other initiatives with very other personalities and feature none of them disenchanted at her. Politics is complete of people that create struggle as a device, and Jessica does now not create struggle,” Todd mentioned.
Early in her occupation, Johnson used to be a protege of Cleta Mitchell, one of the crucial GOP’s most sensible election legal professionals over the past quarter of a century. Extra not too long ago, she labored on the Nationwide Republican Congressional Committee, the place she began as normal suggest however later added tasks as deputy govt director and in the long run took fee of the crowd’s impartial expenditure arm.
NRSC Communications Director Katie Martin, who additionally labored with Johnson on the NRCC, mentioned her mixture of political and felony skills is in reality uncommon.
“I’ve been staring at her be a badass for some time now,” Martin mentioned. “She’s any person 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 lend a hand Nelson. Although she had made arrangements for doable felony skirmishes in tight races around the nation over the former a number of months, Johnson instantly grasped that his engagement signaled a conflict.
In brief order, she known as her husband, Todd, who works for the Republican Governors Affiliation, to verify the youngsters can be looked after and booked a flight.
“I knew I used to be going to Florida,” she mentioned.