LAUDERHILL, Fla. – Amid the controversy swirling around Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ signing of a new elections bill into law, another part of the order concerning a special election to fill a vacant seat in the 20th Congressional District is also creating dissension.
The special election for the 20th Congressional district will be held Nov. 2 and the general election will be on Jan. 11, according to the order.
That’s nine months without representation for the 20th Congressional District. The Broward Supervisor of Elections Joe Scott and several other community leaders are urging DeSantis to reconsider the dates and to call for a timely election to replace long time Congressman Alcee Hastings who recently died.
Hastings was one of a kind and a powerful voice for minority rights. He represented the nearly 800,000 people of the 20th Congressional District, which is a majority Black district encompassing parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties.
A stampede of candidates want Hastings’ seat and many of them are well-known office holders including State Senator Perry Thurston, Broward Commissioners Dale Holness and Barbara Sharief and State Representatives Omari Hardy and Bobby Dubose.
Civic activists and the Broward Elections Supervisor are asking for the special election to be held sooner, with the primary Aug. 31 and the general election on Nov. 2.
“These are dates that the community is generally used to. These are dates that would generally be about as long as Congressional seats are open,” Scott said.
The last time there was a vacancy was in 2013 when a member of Congress from the Tampa area died. It took a little more than 5 months before the election time was called by the governor.
The order also allows the Governor to choose an interim state or house seat until next election.
“Nine months without representation is almost a lifetime when you are talking about what this community needs,” said Florida State Senator Shevrin Jones.
It is highly unlikely that the DeSantis will change the election dates and a lawsuit to force him to make the change has little chance of success.
“The resign-to-run law has been around since 1970 and has given the individuals within the community the ability to pick who they want to represent them. But with this new law it makes the governor the kingmaker,” Jones said.