After sitting open for more than nine months, voters are set to fill the seat in Florida’s 20th Congressional District in Tuesday’s Special Election.
Democratic candidate Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick enters Tuesday as the presumptive successor to the late Rep. Alcee Hastings. Hastings died in April after a cancer battle, triggering a Special Election to replace the giant Florida political figure.
Cherfilus-McCormick is battling four other candidates Tuesday in the CD 20 contest. Republican Jason Mariner and Libertarian Mike ter Maat are on the ballot, as are two candidates with no party affiliation: Jim Flynn and Leonard Serratore.
Though five candidates are competing, Cherfilus-McCormick is the heavy favorite because of CD 20’s voter breakdown. According to the Cook Political Report’s Partisan Voter Index, the district leans Democratic by 28 percentage points. Hastings had consistently coasted in the General Election in recent years, meaning the Democratic candidate is likely to win Tuesday.
Cherfilus-McCormick is the CEO of Trinity Health Care Services, a home health care company. She largely self-funded her way to a win in November’s crowded Primary Election. Cherfilus-McCormick ended atop the field of 11 candidates, defeating Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness by a mere five votes.
That narrow margin pushed the race to a hand and machine recount, which verified Cherfilus-McCormick’s slim win. Those five votes were enough to put Cherfilus-McCormick in the driver’s seat for Tuesday’s contest.
Though the seat currently leans strongly Democratic, it’s unclear how the decennial redistricting process will change the district’s makeup. Tuesday’s contest will take place under the current boundaries. CD 20 stretches across portions of Broward and Palm Beach counties, spanning several majority-Black areas near major cities such as Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.
But the seat will be up for grabs again later this year as part of the normal House election cycle. Those later contests will be held under the newly drawn maps. The congressional map has not yet been finalized.
Mariner also had to get through a Primary Election contest to make it to the ballot Tuesday. He defeated Greg Musselwhite in November, earning the GOP nod.
That led to some questions about Mariner’s eligibility, as Mariner has a felony record. While the Florida Constitution requires candidates to have their rights restored before running for office, the U.S. Constitution has no such provision. While the state requirements can apply to state and local candidates, prior case law says federal candidates are governed by the U.S. Constitution, limiting states’ ability to add qualification requirements.
The Libertarian candidate, ter Maat, is a former police officer and college professor. Flynn works in real estate in West Palm Beach. Serratore is a former Palm Beach County Commission candidate.