Seventeen days since becoming the Representative-elect of Broward County’s House District 94, Democrat Daryl Campbell still doesn’t know when — or if — he’ll be seated as a voting member of the Legislature.
House Democratic Co-Leader Evan Jenne said he’s scratching his head over conflicting information he has received from the Secretary of State’s office about whether Campbell can be seated this Session. Campbell won 40% of the vote in a Jan. 11 Special Election to win the seat.
“There’s no good reason not to seat him,” Jenne said, explaining he was told that a certifying letter from the Secretary of State’s office would clear the way for Campbell’s swearing-in.
But the letter did not arrive Thursday despite a walk Jenne took to the Secretary of State’s office Thursday afternoon.
A Thursday evening story in the Sun-Sentinel said Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee won’t send a letter to the House declaring Campbell as the winner until at least March 8, three days before the current Session is scheduled to end. The article said Campbell’s seating is at the discretion of House Speaker Chris Sprowls.
Lee is an appointee of Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Sprowls’ office, meanwhile, has maintained the start of Campbell’s House tenure is up to the Secretary of State’s certification. His press spokeswoman issued a statement just after noon Friday saying that the Speaker understood the Secretary of State’s certification would be “forthcoming.”
“I have said from the very beginning we look forward to seating Daryl Campbell as soon at the Secretary of State sends over his certification as winner of the General Election,” Sprowls’ statement read.
The Secretary of State’s office has been saying that the Primary Election would be certified this week but had been mum on when the General Election would be certified. That election is scheduled for March 8, but no other candidates outside the Democratic Party qualified to run, thus rendering a General Election for this seat moot.
Friday morning, spokeswoman Mallory Morgan said her office was working on “updated language” on the situation, but would not give more details about whether it means Campbell can start hiring staff and sitting in on committee meetings as a voting member.
Campbell came to Tallahassee this week, anticipating the start of his term. Friday, he said he’s still hopeful.
“I really want to get to work,” he said.
The unusual set of circumstances was triggered when U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings died in office last April. Three state lawmakers, including HD 94’s Democratic Rep. Bobby DuBose, resigned to run for Hastings’ seat in Florida’s 20th Congressional District. The schedule DeSantis announced for electing the resigned lawmakers’ replacements presented the possibility that none of those successors would serve a day in the current Session. That left a swath of residents in Broward and Palm Beach counties unrepresented during a Session while redistricting is ongoing.
Jenne said he originally was told last week the certifying paperwork would arrive this week.
“I’m getting the runaround here and it’s starting to be a bit much,” Jenne said.
Campbell will face a bid for re-election this year during the normal election cycle. His district covers parts of Fort Lauderdale, Plantation and Wilton Manors.
Broward County Supervisor of Elections Joe Scott said Campbell should be allowed to serve.
“Not allowing him to serve is anti-democratic,” he said.