Insiders have been speculating on the prospects of the three legislators running in the Special Election to replace the late U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings.
The Primary Election has been scheduled for Nov. 2 and the General Election will follow on Jan. 11. Given the partisan lean in Florida’s 20th Congressional District, there’s no doubt the winner of the Democratic Primary will ultimately succeed Hastings in Congress.
There are many candidates for the seat, but it has been difficult so far to assess the true contenders. Three lawmakers — Sen. Perry Thurston and Reps. Bobby DuBose and Omari Hardy — as well as two popular Broward County Commissioners are in the running.
Thurston’s place in the pecking order has become clearer since campaign finance reports dropped. He reported an underwhelming $182,000 in contributions in his first report.
Right now, if he instead ran for reelection to the state Senate, he would be the runaway favorite to win another term and would either derail any momentum other candidates have for his seat or get them to drop out altogether.
However, the longer he remains a CD 20 candidate rather than an SD 33 candidate, the less likely he is to scare off the competition. Both women running for his seat are serious candidates, School Board member Roslyn Osgood and Rep. Patricia Williams.
And Thurston’s odds would be irreversibly wounded if continues his congressional bid and loses. It would show the kind of weakness that wouldn’t only steel his competition, but the Tallahassee support he would rely on to secure reelection to the Senate.
His district has a substantial female voter base, too, so he’d likely struggle winning a primary against a strong woman candidate such as Osgood or Williams.
And Senate Democrats could certainly use Thurston’s talent (and his vote) in the caucus during the reapportionment process.
DuBose, meanwhile, appears most likely to stick it out having been encouraged by his strong fundraising — his $227,000 report was second only to Commissioner Dale Holness, who raked in $305,000.
DuBose has gone on the record saying he will not run for state Senate. However, his challenge lies in name recognition. While he has strong support in the Fort Lauderdale area, many insiders say he’s a virtual unknown among the rest of the CD 20 electorate. This is not a fatal flaw — not yet, at least — but he will need to act quickly to flip that narrative.
Hardy is in a vastly different has a different predicament.
There’s no sugarcoating it: his fundraising is abysmal. A $95,000 report may impress if the election was in August 2022, but three months out from Election Day, the alarm bells should be ringing at campaign HQ.
The topline on his report only tells half the story. The middling numbers are coupled with a shocking lack of support in Palm Beach County. Worse yet, CD 20 only covers a sliver of PBC, and it’s a stretch that Hardy doesn’t even represent in the state House. The numbers simply don’t add up for him.
Does he risk his future in Palm Beach County politics on a poor performance in a congressional race? Many are leaning toward “no.” If he were truly serious about pursuing the congressional seat rather than reelection, he would probably have resigned his seat by now.
There qualifying period is Aug. 9-10. All three sitting lawmakers should spend the next two weeks thinking about whether it’s a foolish bet to put their political futures on the line for a slim shot at a congressional seat.