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DeSantis sparks questions with Florida's upcoming special election

DeSantis' plan will leave voters in Florida's 20th without a representative until January. If that seems like a long time, it's not your imagination.


It was just four weeks ago when the late Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) died at the age of 84. There's already a crowded field of candidates eager to succeed the longtime Miami-area congressman, in a heavily Democratic district.

The power falls to Florida's governor to schedule a special election to fill the vacancy, and yesterday, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) did exactly that.

The U.S. House seat left vacant by the death of Rep. Alcee Hastings will be filled through a special election, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday. Speaking at a news conference Tuesday, DeSantis said the primary for the District 20 seat will be held on Nov. 2, with the general election on Jan. 11, 2022.

At first blush, this may seem relatively routine. But a closer look raises some questions about the calendar.

Right off the bat, note that the Republican governor waited nearly a full month before scheduling the special election. Then he announced a schedule that will leave the voters in Florida's 20th district -- most of whom are Black -- without a representative until January.

If that seems like a long time, it's not your imagination. As Daily Kos' David Nir explained, thanks to DeSantis' plan, Hastings' seat "will remain without representation for 280 days. That's almost twice as long as the gap that proceeded the state's two most recent special elections: In 2014, specials were held in the 13th District just 144 days after Rep. Bill Young died and in the 19th District just 148 days after Rep. Trey Radel resigned. Both were Republicans."

We can continue going down the same road. In 2001, then-Rep. Joe Scarborough (R-Fla.) -- years before becoming an MSNBC host -- stepped down in May, just five months into the congressional session. Then-Gov. Jeb Bush (R) scheduled primaries for late July and a special election for mid-October.

In 1989, then-Rep. Claude Pepper (D-Fla.) died in May, also five months into the congressional session. Then-Gov. Bob Martinez (R) scheduled primaries for early August, and a special election for late August.

So why would DeSantis adopt a different kind of schedule and leave this Democratic district without a representative longer than necessary?

Politico reported that the governor's schedule is in line with the calendar suggested to him a local country elections supervisor. That's true, but let's not brush past the details: as David Nir's report added, "Local election officials in Broward and Palm Beach counties initially proposed the dates that DeSantis wound up choosing, including a primary on Nov. 2. Soon after, however, they suggested the primary take place on Sept. 14 and the general on Nov. 9, with one official saying, 'People would like it to be earlier.'"

Evidently, the governor is not among those people.