Democratic House candidate Rick King is threatening a lawsuit against Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis to force the Governor to set up Special Elections for a set of unfilled seats in the Legislature.
King is competing in House District 88, which Democratic Rep. Omari Hardy currently represents. But Hardy is one of three state legislators who resigned their seats to run in the Special Election to replace the late U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings in Florida’s 20th Congressional District.
State law requires elected officials to resign their current seats in order to pursue a different office. While DeSantis has set up Special Election dates for the CD 20 contest, he has yet to announce a timeline to replace the three state lawmakers who recently resigned.
That means those three legislative seats — two in the House, one in the Senate — are set to be unfilled when the Legislature begins meeting in January. All of those incumbents are Democrats serving in districts with healthy Democratic advantages.
In a letter dated Sept. 12, King says he’s giving the Governor until Oct. 2 to set those dates.
“I call on you to set the election dates within 20 days. If you do not set a date for a special election within the next 20 days, it is my intention to seek redress with the court and compel you to do so,” King wrote.
Democrats have already heavily criticized DeSantis for delaying the Special Election in CD 20. The Governor has the authority to set those dates but is not limited to any specific timeline. It’s unclear what legal path King would have to compel DeSantis to set up a Special Election.
Florida Politics has reached out to DeSantis’ office for a comment on the letter but did not receive an immediate reply.
DeSantis’ decision to schedule the CD 20 General Election for Jan. 11 — far later than recent examples his predecessors encountered — means Hastings’ seat goes unfilled for more than nine months after his death. The resignations of Hardy — as well as state Sen. Perry Thurston and state Rep. Bobby DuBose — were only made official in late July. But it took the Governor about a month to announce the Special Election dates for Hastings’ seat after he died in April.
With September winding down, no Special Election dates have yet been set for the state-level vacancies.
“Nearly two months have passed and you have not yet called for an election,” King wrote in his letter.
“It would have been responsible for you to set the three Florida Legislative special elections on the same date as the District 20 Congressional special elections: Nov. 3 for the Primary, and Jan. 11 for the General Election.”
Though the 2022 Legislative Session begins in January, pre-Session work such as preparing legislation has already commenced. And committee hearings are set to begin next week.
That will all take place with three Democratic seats unfilled.
“By setting the election date you can avoid Florida citizens being left without representation in the same way Floridians were left unrepresented in the congressional district,” King added.
King is one of three Democrats seeking the HD 88 seat, along with Rubin Anderson and Jervonte Edmonds.