Republican congressional candidate Jason Mariner is fully eligible to hold office in the United States House of Representatives regardless of his past felony convictions, his campaign declared Wednesday.
Mariner, who won the Republican Primary Election last week in Florida’s 20th Congressional District, had his eligibility called into question because the Florida Constitution bans felons from holding office and is unclear whether a felon who has his voting rights restored can run for federal office.
In a Mariner campaign memo, attorney David Mitchel Graham of Jacksonville advises Mariner that his eligibility is assured because several precedent-setting federal court cases have found the U.S. Constitution spells out qualifications for members of the U.S. Housing of Representatives, and “non-felon” isn’t one of those qualifications. Further, states cannot add their own qualifications.
It’s the same argument constitutional law scholars suggested to Florida Politics for a story published Tuesday.
Graham also advises Mariner that his satisfaction of Amendment 4 provisions to restore his voting rights also would apply to his elected office holding rights.
Mariner’s campaign — and Graham for that matter — blasted media reports that said he might not be eligible because of the Florida Constitution’s ban of felons from holding office unless their voting rights are restored.
“The facts of this matter are publicly available to anyone with access to the Internet or a library. It is troublesome to think that any professor or journalist would fail to do the homework before commenting on such an important matter,” Mariner’s campaign said in a statement. “The people of FL20 have chosen Jason Mariner to be their Republican Nominee and he will continue to advocate, never back down or yield, for Jason says it, ‘it is the American People who must ring the bell of Liberty.’ Jason Mariner’s commitment to representing the average and forgotten American will remain forever unwavering.”
Florida officials have not yet commented on their conclusions of his status. Last week, a spokesperson for Gov. Ron DeSantis said lawyers in the Governor’s office were trying to determine whether the state’s rules requiring restoration of civil rights would apply to a Florida candidate for federal office. The spokesperson has since indicated the Governor’s lawyers have referred the matter to the Secretary of State’s Office. The Secretary of State has not responded to inquiries about Mariner’s status from Florida Politics.
Mariner is running in a Special Election to replace the late Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings, who died earlier this year after a cancer battle.
Last Tuesday, Special Primary Elections were held in CD 20, and Mariner topped Greg Musselwhite 58% to 42% in the Republican Primary. The Secretary of State’s Division of Elections still has not updated its website to indicate that Mariner won.
The Democratic Primary remains undecided because it was too close and is awaiting a recount. The top two Democrats, Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness and Trinity Health Care Services CEO Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick were separated by 12 votes at last count.