Gov. Ron DeSantis says Alcee Hastings’ former congressional seat will remain unfilled for more than nine months after Hastings passed away following a cancer battle in early April.
DeSantis announced Tuesday the General Election to replace Hastings will take place on Jan. 11. Primaries will be held on Nov. 2 to decide the respective parties’ nominees. The Governor said the qualifying deadline would be some time around the end of September.
That’s a far longer delay than the two most recent openings in Florida House seats.
When former U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler resigned his House seat, it remained open for three months before being filled. After the 2013 death of U.S. Rep. Bill Young, that seat sat open for five months.
DeSantis Tuesday said the state has coordinated with local governments on the issue. He explained the long lead time would help the packed field of candidates prepare for the campaign.
“I’ve spoken with (Secretary of State) Laurel Lee. I know she spoke with both the Palm Beach and Broward Supervisors,” DeSantis said Tuesday.
The dates DeSantis selected are not what those supervisors were recommending, however. Palm Beach Supervisor Wendy Link and Broward Supervisor Joe Scott both offered a letter to the state in late April suggesting a Aug. 31 Primary Election, followed by a Nov. 2 General Election.
DeSantis’ proposal lags that timeline by about two months.
“There’s a lot that goes into it,” the Governor added Tuesday. “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.”
Congressional Democrats had already expressed frustration that DeSantis might drag out the timeline. Those Democrats have argued someone of Hastings’ stature — a revered member of the Black community who was among the first set of Black House members representing Florida — warrants a swift replacement to carry on his work.
Additionally, Democrats have just a six-vote majority in the House. That could jeopardize some parts of the Democrats’ agenda. Just a handful of defectors could kill a measure, and any additional vacancies would slash that margin further.
While the General Election will ultimately decide Hastings’ successor, the Nov. 2 Primary Election is the more important one to watch. Though the General Election will be contested, CD 20 has a heavy Democratic advantage. According to the Cook Political Report’s Partisan Voter Index, CD 20 leans Democratic by 28 percentage points.
That means whoever secures the Democratic nod will be favored come January. A crowded field has already developed, including state Sen. Perry Thurston, state Reps. Bobby DuBose and Omari Hardy, and Broward Commissioners Dale Holness and Barbara Sharief.
CD 20 spans Broward and Palm Beach counties, crossing several majority-Black areas near major cities such as Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.