TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP/WSVN) — A special primary election to fill the seat of the late U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings will be held in November, followed by a deciding general election two months later, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday.
Hastings, a Democrat from the Fort Lauderdale area, died April 6. He announced two years ago that he had pancreatic cancer.
At least seven Democrats and one Republican have said they will seek to fill the vacancy in the heavily Democratic district.
During a news conference in Miami, DeSantis announced that the primary would be held Nov. 2. Candidates who win their party’s nomination would advance to a general election set for Jan. 11, 2022.
With a slim majority in Congress, there was some urgency among Democrats to fill the vacancy left by Hastings’ death. One candidate recently filed a lawsuit seeking to force DeSantis to schedule the special election.
“I know there will be a lot of folks that want to run for it. So hopefully that gives them enough time to be able to get on the ballot and do whatever they need to do to be competitive,” the Republican governor said.
The 20th Congressional District encompasses much of the Black communities in the Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach areas. Hastings won nearly 80% of the vote in November.
Under Florida law, DeSantis was required to call a special election although he has wide discretion as to when.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., released a statement shortly after the governor’s announcement.
“The governor obviously could care less about the South Florida residents in this district who will go without representation in Washington until next year and more about leaving a strong blue seat vacant longer, while also postponing an election until after the Republicans’ new voter suppression law takes effect,” Wasserman Schultz wrote.
The representative referred to new legislation that place restrictions on drop boxes and mail-in voting.
Rick Hoye, the Broward Democrats’ Chairman, said he was “very disturbed” the dates the governor announced.
“I think it is very political, and it will be advantageous to the Republican agenda to have this election delayed as long as possible,” Hoye said. “We would like for our people to be represented.”
Joe Scott, the Broward Supervisor of Elections, said he and the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections had planned for an earlier election date.
“We are really disappointed in the dates that he suggested, so we would like to see our representatives get in place much earlier than that,” Scott said. “If we don’t have a representative in Washington, then the community could be losing out on federal dollars that are going through some of these bills that are going through the House of Representatives right now.”
“I hope that [DeSantis is] not trying to play politics with this,” Scott added. “I think some people might say that that’s what’s going on, that he wants to leave the seats open longer, but I’m hoping that’s not the case, and I’m hoping that maybe there was some sort of miscommunication along the way.”
Scott added that he hopes to speak with the governor’s office to reconsider his decision because a special election would cost $5 million, but if they hold it when the governor wants to, it will cost more because the planning will happen over the holidays.
With Florida’s current election system, early voting for a Jan. 11, 2022 special election would begin on New Year’s Day, according to Scott.
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