LAUDERHILL, FLA. (WSVN) - Health care executive Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick has been officially declared the “apparent winner” in the tight race for the Democratic nomination of a congressional seat left open by the death of U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings.

Broward County Supervisor of Elections Joe Scott confirmed the final results of the Democratic primary for U.S. House Florida District 20 on Friday night.

“Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick is the apparent winner of the Democratic Party,” he said.

Cherfilus-McCormick beat out her opponent, Broward County Commissioner and former Broward County Mayor Dale Holness.

The winner of the primary reacted to her victory on Friday.

“The voters spoke. They said they wanted a new voice to fight for them,” she said, “and I look forward to being that voice and make sure we get the change our district needs.”

A razor-thin margin of five votes separated the two top candidates in the Democratic primary.

The Broward County Canvassing Board spent hours on Friday combing through the final overseas and military ballots. One even arrived at the last minute, as the board dropped some who didn’t match specific criteria.

“We came to the conclusion there was no evidence that they were actually overseas, so most of the ballots are not going to end up being counted,” said Scott. “Most of those ballots were rejected, and there actually weren’t any additional votes for either of the two candidates who were subject to the recount.”

Cherfilus-McCormick poured nearly $4 million of her own money into the primary election in her bid to take over Hastings’ seat.

Hastings died April 6 at age 84. The seat he left vacant spans across parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties.

“I’m overwhelmed. It’s a huge responsibility to even walk in the footsteps of the late Alcee Hastings,” said Cherfilus-McCormick .

Holness, who was endorsed by the Hastings family, said he will discuss his next steps with his attorneys to try to get those 12 dropped ballots counted.

“We don’t know exactly where they are. We should give our military personnel and their dependents who serve our country the benefit of the doubt rather than doubt them,” he said. “They put a request in to have a vote-by-mail ballot. There is a reason they did it.”

As for Cherfilus-McCormick, she is poised to take on a Republican challenger during a January special election in a solidly Democratic district.

“It’s overwhelming to be the first Haitian American Democrat to be in Congress, especially when we have no Democratic members or no members who are Haitian American,” she said, “so this is a huge step for the Haitian American community also, where we can have a voice in Congress.”

Scott advises those who opt to vote my mail to send their ballots sooner, because there were hundreds that were mailed on time but didn’t make it to the Supervisor of Elections Office by the deadline on Election Day.

Scott added that voters who plan to be out of the country need to call to let the office know and follow the appropriate instructions.

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