House Democratic Co-Leader Evan Jenne questioned Monday why Gov. Ron DeSantis has yet to call a Special Election to fill three forthcoming vacancies in South Florida legislative districts.
Jenne, speaking to reporters via Zoom, suggested Republicans have little to lose in the elections. The Legislature, he stressed, will remain in Republican-control if the seats are filled again by Democratic lawmakers.
“You don’t get anything by holding them back,” Jenne said of the Democratic-leaning districts. “We are still a small minority, facing a large majority. That doesn’t change with those seats.”
The Special Elections will replace three lawmakers — Rep. Bobby DuBose and Sen. Perry Thurston of Broward County and Rep. Omari Hardy of Palm Beach County. The Democratic trio resigned to run for a congressional vacancy created by the death of U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings. Hastings, who represented Florida’s 20th Congressional District, died April 6, 2021.
Without a prompt Special Election, Jenne fears the respective districts — HD 94, HD 88 and SD 33 — will move into Session without political representation. The 2022 Legislative Session begins Jan. 11.
“If we do not speed this process up and the Governor does not call this election sometime soon, nearly half a million African-Americans in South Florida will have absolutely no representation in Tallahassee during a redistricting Session,” Jenne said. “That is something that we should not have to worry about, but it is very concerning to us.”
Jenne’s remarks come after Elijah Manley and the Harvard Election Law Clinic announced plans to sue DeSantis over the delay. Manley is a Democratic candidate running to fill DuBose’s seat.
“This level of extreme partisanship is not what America is supposed to be about, and is a grotesque departure from political norms,” Manley tweeted Oct. 15. “We will see the Governor in court.”
The winner of the Democratic Primary in CD 20 will be the heavy favorite come January. According to the Cook Political Report’s Partisan Voter Index, CD 20 leans Democratic by 28 percentage points. The district spans Broward and Palm Beach counties, crossing several majority-Black areas near major cities such as Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.
The Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida endorsed Hardy for the congressional district over the weekend.