Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick decisively bests her rival Dale Holness in rematch to represent CD 20

A razor-thin majority determined the outcome the last time the rivals met, but not this time.

In the Democratic Primary that will all but certainly determine who goes to Congress, U.S. Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick crushed the competitor she beat by just five votes in a Special Democratic Primary Election last November.

With all the precincts counted, Cherfilus-McCormick secured nearly 66% vote compared to 28% for former Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness. A third candidate, state Rep. Anika Omphroy trailed with 6% of the vote.

Cherfilus-McCormick must still get past Republican Drew-Montez Clark in November’s General Election for the right to represent Florida’s 20th Congressional District that spans Broward and Palm Beach counties.

But the district, which stretches from Belle Glade to Pembroke Pines, is the bluest district in the state, according to election data analyst Matt Isbell of MCI Maps. It takes in all the Black-majority neighborhoods around Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach and its voters elected President Joe Biden by a whopping 52-point margin. So the winner of the Democratic Primary is largely expected to win the General Election.

Cherfilus-McCormick and Holness had their rematch Tuesday under vastly different circumstances than the Special Primary nine months ago. They were no longer two competitors in a field of 11 candidates, splitting a fraction of the votes that turned out for Tuesday’s election.

Cherfilus-McCormick had much more money, most of it coming from her own pocket, and the endorsement of the Sun-Sentinel and the Palm Beach Post. But Holness had the support of a broad group of donors, including local officials such as Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis, Margate Mayor Antonio Arserio, Tamarac Commissioner Marlon Bolton and North Lauderdale City Commissioner Regina Martin.

In last November’s Primary, Court action went back and forth between Cherfilus-McCormick and Holness in the last bout as the two wrangled over ballot counting as it came down to just a handful of votes. And, nine months later, the two are embroiled in another legal dispute.

Cherfilus-McCormick is suing the Holness campaign for $1 million because of a text message that went out to voters claiming she embezzled $6 million in taxpayer money “to buy a seat in a Congress,” the Sun-Sentinel reported.

The dust-up stems from the large loans Cherfilus-McCormick has given her campaign. Campaign records show Cherfilus-McCormick, a health care executive, has lent her campaign $6 million and paid back $4 million. Questions have been raised over how she could loan her campaign that much money. A financial disclosure form shows she earned $6.4 million in 2021, which was quite an increase from the $83,000 she earned the year before.

In 2021, the same year she started self-funding her bid to replace Hastings, she won a government contract to vaccinate underserved minorities for $8.1 million.

The records don’t show how much it cost Trinity to fulfill its obligations under the contracts, and how much was profit for the family-owned company. Cherfilus-McCormick told the Sun-Sentinel that work was done and the effort “was the proudest moment in my career.”

Holness’ campaign also received some unwanted attention during this latest campaign. The Florida Ethics Commission fined him $1,000 in March for a violation that involved failing to accurately disclose his income.

Also, a campaign consultant who worked for Holness between 2019 and 2021 pleaded guilty for lying on an application for federal COVID-19 relief for small business. Omar Smith, who received $60,000 from Holness in those previous years, is due to be sentenced Oct. 21.

Omphroy, meanwhile, is under investigation because of an executive order from the Governor.

DeSantis signed an executive order in May 2021 assigning Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle’s Office to investigate allegations Omphroy violated the Florida Election Code. No charges have yet been filed, according to court records. And no details were given about what the allegations were when the executive order was signed.

Fernandez Rundle’s office was due to report its findings in reply to the executive order in April. That investigation is still open, according to a spokeswoman for the State Attorney in Miami.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected]


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Kelly Hayes, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Andrew Wilson, Wes Wolfe, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Sign up for Sunburn