A day after saying it would not send a certification letter on special election results from Jan. 11 until March, the Florida Department of State reversed course Friday and sent the letter to the Florida House certifying Daryl Campbell as the winner in the Florida House District 94.
The letter from Division of Elections Director Maria Matthews, which was sent to clerk Jeff Takacs at the Florida House of Representatives, informs the Florida House that Campbell was the official winner in the universal primary election earlier this month.
It ends days of uncertainty for House Democrats who questioned whether the Department of State, which runs the Division of Elections, would refuse to provide official notice to House Speaker Chris Sprowls certifying Campbell as the winner and allowing for him to be sworn as a member of the Florida House.
Jenna Sarkissian, a spokesperson for Sprowls, confirmed Friday their office had received the official certification letter and that Campbell would start his legislative duties on Monday, with a ceremonial swearing-in on the House floor on Tuesday.
The special election for HD 94, a majority-Black and safely Democratic district in Broward County, was held this month along with primary elections for House District 88 in Palm Beach and Senate District 33, which overlaps with Campbell’s district in Broward. All seats were emptied as a result of three state lawmakers who resigned to run in a crowded Democratic primary for Florida’s Congressional District 20 to replace U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, who died of cancer. The general election is March 8. Campbell will not be on the general-election ballot because there were no Republicans or candidates from other parties who qualified in the race.
Mallory Morgan, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Laurel Lee, said in an email that the Division of Elections typically sends a courtesy letter and certificate to both chambers of the Legislature after the general election “so that there is one, full list.”
“In this instance, because Mr. Campbell was elected in a Special Universal Primary Election, we provided the courtesy letter and certificate on Friday, January 28, 2022,” Morgan said.
Morgan did not give more details about why there was an unusual delay in sending the letter that would pave the way for Campbell to be sworn in. The Division of Elections’ Election Canvassing Commission certified the results on Tuesday.
House Minority Leader Evan Jenne, a Dania Beach Democrat, said Thursday that he had heard nothing but silence from the Department of State since Monday, after being in communication for weeks about the timeline of Campbell’s swearing in. Jenne and other staffers in his office walked over to Lee’s office on Thursday but were turned away.
“it makes no sense,” Jenne said Thursday. “This is bizarre behavior for the State Department in Florida’s government.”
Jenne said the delay also made no mathematical sense because, even with Campbell’s swearing in, Republicans will still hold a supermajority in the House and committees as the Legislature proceeds with its session, which ends on March 11.
“At the end of the day, what they’re guaranteeing is that 170,000 mostly people of color who will have no representation in the House when we’ll be voting on the House [redistricting] maps next week,” said Jenne.
The decision from Lee’s office to send the letter on Friday is a reversal for the Secretary of State’s Office, which told the South Florida Sun Sentinel on Thursday it would not send a courtesy letter to the House until after the general elections for HD 88 and SD 33.
Campbell, a 35-year-old mental health specialist, has been back and forth to Tallahassee since last week and said he is excited to finally see the Department of State send the certification letter.
“I’m excited, I’m happy,” Campbell said. “It feels like a long time coming, with all the things we had to overcome just to get to this point... You feel like the day will never come.”
Campbell said he still has not spoken with Sprowls but he expected to meet with him in the coming weeks.