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Eleven Candidates Vying to Replace Alcee Hastings in Florida’s 20th CD

November 1, 2021 by Dan McCue
In this Dec. 17, 2019 photo, Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., speaks during a House Rules Committee hearing on the impeachment against President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.— Eleven candidates will appear on the ballot in Florida’s 20th Congressional District on Tuesday, Nov. 2, facing off in a primary allegedly delayed by Gov. Ron DeSantis to help stymie policy gains by Democrats in the U.S. Congress.

The district is heavily favored for whichever Democrat prevails in the primary, and the date for the special election to fill the seat of the late Rep. Alcee Hastings won’t be held until Jan. 11, 2022, eight months after his death.

Hastings served in Congress for 28 years, first as representative for Florida’s 23rd Congressional District (1993-2013) and then for Florida’s 20th Congressional District from 2013 until his death from pancreatic cancer on Apr. 6, 2021.

Though supervisors of elections in both Broward and Palm Beach counties asked the governor to set a special election for the seat for Aug. 31, 2021, DeSantis refused, delaying filling the seat for some 11 weeks longer than is usual under similar circumstances.

Florida state records show that between 1999 and 2020, the average time it took for a governor to call an election was just 7.6 days.

Even DeSantis has acted faster in the past. When State Sen. Tom Lee resigned halfway through his term in May 2020, DeSantis announced the date of a special election to fill the seat just two days later.

Since Hastings’ death, his Washington and district offices have remained open under the supervision of the clerk of the House of Representatives.

The candidates making up Tuesday’s primary field are state Sen. Perry Thurston, state Reps. Bobby DuBose and Omari Hardy, Broward County Commissioners Dale Holness and Barbara Sharief, former Palm Beach County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor, health care executive Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, and four others: Elvin Dowling, Phil Jackson, Emmanuel Morel and Imran Siddiqui.

Of these, the five current officeholders were among the top six fundraisers in the race as of the middle of October.

The fundraising leader was Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick with $3.8 million, $3.7 million of which she loaned to her campaign. 

Cherfilus-McCormick ran against Hastings in the 2020 and 2018 Democratic primaries, receiving between 26% and 31% of the vote. 

Sharief was second in fundraising with $895,000, including $756,000 she loaned to her campaign.

This is the first election held in Florida since the state adopted tougher voting rules in the name of election security.

There have already been complaints from voters who prefer to vote by mail due to the fact they now have to request their ballots and comply with the state’s new identification requirements.

The new state election law, signed by Gov. DeSantis in May, prevents automatic re-enrollment of mail-in voters.

The contest has also had its controversial moments.

Early in the race, Holness said Hastings had endorsed him shortly before the congressman’s death. However, Hastings left behind no statement to that effect in writing or on video.

As a result, several of the other candidates have accused Holness, who was a close aide to Hastings, of inventing the endorsement.

Finally, the Tampa Bay Times reported last week that at least seven of the candidates in the race had failed to file their financial disclosures on time, meaning voters are going to the polls not knowing who the contestants have gotten money from nor how it was spent.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.

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