Five elected officials have resigned so they can run for Congress in South Florida special election

·4 min read

There’s no turning back now.

The five elected officials who want to fill the vacant Broward-Palm Beach County seat in Congress have submitted written resignations from their current jobs.

The resignations are irrevocable, though they don’t take effect for months.

As a result, as soon as the Jan. 11 special election takes place, at least four of the current officeholders will be out of public office — and possibly all five, if one of the candidates who doesn’t now hold an elective office wins.

Florida law requires elected officials to resign from their current offices to seek another one if the terms of the new office and the old office overlap.

That’s why Broward County Commissioners Dale Holness and Barbara Sharief; state Sen. Perry Thurston and state Rep. Bobby DuBose, both of Broward; and state Rep. Omari Hardy, of Palm Beach County, resigned in recent days.

The five are running for the Democratic nomination to fill the vacancy created by the April 6 death of the longtime late U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings.

The Democratic primary, which includes several other announced candidates, is tantamount to the congressional election. The 20th Congressional District is so Democratic, the winner of the Nov. 2 primary is almost certain to win the January general election.

Domino effect

The resignations create a cascade of political movement in Broward, home to four of the resigning officials, and to a lesser extent in Palm Beach County, where Hardy lives. The resignations leave vacancies that will need to get filled next year through appointments or special elections, which in turn may create more vacancies that need to get filled.

  • County commissioners. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis gets to pick replacements for Democrats Holness and Sharief. His appointees will serve through the November 2022 elections.

Sharief’s term was due to end then anyway. Holness was re-elected last year to a four-year term; the replacement elected in 2022 will serve two years, completing the remainder of the term he is relinquishing.

DeSantis could appoint Republicans, but they would have a difficult time retaining the seats in the 2022 election. (The district boundaries will be redrawn before the 2022 elections to reflect population changes uncovered in the 2020 Census; in their current form, they’re the two most heavily Democratic districts on the Broward County Commission.)

DeSantis could appoint Democrats, or at least someone aligned with him in the hope they can hold onto the seats in the elections. Governors have taken both tacks in the past when they’ve had to fill Broward vacancies.

  • State legislators. The vacancies in the state Senate and state House seats will be filled through special elections, not appointments.

The governor has wide latitude to set the dates for the special primary and general elections for the Broward Senate, Broward House and Palm Beach County House seats.

All are virtually guaranteed to elect Democrats.

Once the dates for the special elections are set, current officeholders — such as School Board member Rosalind Osgood (running for Thurston’s seat) and Oakland Park Commissioner Michael Carn (running for DuBose’s seat) — will have to resign from those jobs to run for the state Legislature.

Those vacancies will then have to be filled.

Resignations

The deadline for the resignation letters is this week. State law requires resigning officials to submit the resignations at least 10 days before the first day candidates can officially qualify to get on the ballot for the new job they’re seeking. Aug. 9 is the first day of qualifying for the congressional election.

Sharief was the first to turn in her resignation, received by elections officials on July 13. Holness was next. DuBose, Hardy and Thurston submitted their letters this week.

Each is worded slightly differently, were brief and to the point, and contained lots of legalese.

They take effect when the new member of Congress is elected, but each candidate referenced that slightly differently. Sharief didn’t mention a date, but used language from state statutes. Hardy and Thurston said 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 10. DuBose said 11:59 p.m. Jan. 11.

Holness said his would go into effect at 7 p.m. Jan. 11, which is when the polls close.

He also included an alternate of 7 p.m. Nov. 2 (poll closing time for the primary) in case the primary ends up becoming the general election. That would happen only in the unlikely but theoretically possible scenario in which none of the nine Republican, Libertarian or no party affiliation hopefuls who have announced their candidacies end up running and there’s no need for a general election.

Anthony Man can be reached at aman@sunsentinel.com or on Twitter @browardpolitics

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