Florida, Tampa Bay officials react to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death

Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered flags be lowered to half staff. U.S. Sen. Rick Scott offers thoughts and prayers, and a push to replace Ginsburg before the election.
People gather outside the Supreme Court on Friday in Washington after the Supreme Court announced that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died of metastatic pancreatic cancer at age 87.
People gather outside the Supreme Court on Friday in Washington after the Supreme Court announced that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died of metastatic pancreatic cancer at age 87. [ ALEX BRANDON | AP ]
Published Sept. 19, 2020|Updated Sept. 19, 2020

Leaders across Florida and the Tampa Bay region reacted late Friday to the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second woman to serve on the nation’s highest court.

From Gov. Ron DeSantis — who ordered flags to be lowered to half staff — to Sen. Marco Rubio, all praised Ginsburg’s service to the nation to her legacy fighting for women’s rights decades before she joined the Supreme Court in 1993.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and to her family and friends,” DeSantis tweeted. “I’m ordering flags throughout the state of Florida be lowered to half staff to honor her memory and recognize her lifetime of service to our great nation.”

Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried, the state’s highest-ranking Democrat, said Ginsburg’s legacy will live on for decades.

“Heartbroken,” Fried said. “No words can adequately describe what a loss this is for our nation.”

Ginsburg spent her final years on the bench as the leader of the court’s liberal wing. She was known for her defense of the rights of women and minorities, and for her strength to continue to serve despite personal health crisis.

“A brilliant mind, a remarkable life, an incredible impact on our country,” tweeted former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Local Tampa Bay leaders also had words for Ginsburg on Friday night.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, released a statement where she called the former justice’s loss “a gaping hole on the high court.”

“In this moment of sorrow and uncertainty, we must commit, even in loss, that RGB’s work will inspire future generations towards a better, fairer tomorrow," Castor said.

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor released a statement saying Ginsburg was “a fierce advocate for those less fortunate” and that she was a “fighter for those who needed a hand up and champion for a better tomorrow.”

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman also honored Ginsburg while simultaneously asking for those of Jewish descent to pause to honor Ginsburg, who is of Jewish descent but became non-observant while on the bench, who died on the Jewish New Year.

“Wishing fellow Jews a healthy and safe new year. #LShanahTovah,” tweeted Kriseman. “While this is traditionally a celebratory holiday, we must pause tonight to remember the life and incomparable legacy of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. May she rest well. Thank you, RBG.”

Florida’s Senators, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott — who will get to vote on her successor — also released statements.

“Even those who disagreed with many of her decisions recognize Justice Ginsburg was a woman of extraordinary intellect and an American who had a historic impact on the court & the nation,” said Rubio.

Scott called Ginsburg “a trailblazer with a distinguished record of service to her country.”

Two hours later, Scott tweeted about the new vacancy, a preview of the looming fight over whether President Donald Trump nominates her successor.

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio did not immediately respond when asked if the U.S. Senate should replace Ginsburg before the 2020 presidential election is held on Nov. 3. The Senate must vote on any Supreme Court nominee.

In March 2016, eight months before Election Day, Rubio said he wouldn’t replace former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in the last year of President Barack Obama’s second term.

“I don’t think we should be moving forward with a nominee in the last year of this president’s term,” Rubio said to reporters on Capitol Hill shortly after suspending his presidential campaign. “I would say that even if it was a Republican president.”

Scott wasn’t in the U.S. Senate in 2016 and did not publicly weigh in on Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, to the high court.

Scott’s 2018 victory over former Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson for one of Florida’s U.S. Senate seats gives Republicans an additional vote in a potential Supreme Court nomination fight. Scott wasn’t in office for Neil Gorsuch’s successful nomination in 2017 or Brett Kavanaugh’s successful nomination in 2018 and Nelson voted against both nominees.

Miami Herald Washington Correspondent Alex Daugherty contributed to this story.