A Keys politician died in office from COVID. What happens next with his vacant seat?

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Holly Raschein, a former state House representative for the Florida Keys, has applied with the governor to serve the rest of Mike Forster’s term on the dais of the Monroe County Board of County Commissioners.

Forster died earlier this month of complications from COVID-19 at age 61. Raschein, 40, represented District 120 of the Florida House of Representatives from 2012 until November 2020.

In that time, she has become a fixture in the Florida Republican party. She was also close friends with Forster, who along with serving as a county commissioner, was also a former mayor of the Village of Islamorada and a popular restaurateur who was known for his community charity.

“In a perfect world, Mike would have termed out on the commission. Unfortunately, that’s not the reality we’re facing today,” Raschein told the Miami Herald / FLKeysNews. “If I’m the person selected to fill his shoes and the enormous footprint he left behind, I will honor him and our community the best I can.”

Mike Forster
Mike Forster

It’s not clear how long Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will take to appoint Forster’s replacement to serve out the rest of his term, which ends in November 2022.

Replacement timetable

Christina Pushaw, DeSantis’ press secretary, said that “multiple candidates” have applied for Forster’s seat, but she did not have a list immediately available. She also said “there is no set timeline for the governor to announce the appointment.”

“”Because there are 28 months left in Forster’s term, whoever is appointed to replace him would have to run in the next general election (2022) if they want to keep that seat,” Pushaw said in an email.

The annual salary for a Monroe County commissioner is $49,452, said county spokeswoman Kristen Livengood.

Who is Holly Rashein?

If Raschein gets the job, it will be familiar territory for the Alaska native. She’s spent almost all of her professional life working in Keys politics, starting with being legislative aide to then-state Rep. Ken Sorensen in the early 2000s.

Sorensen, who died in 2012, was a powerhouse in the Florida Republican party who was a senior member of now-Sen. Marco Rubio’s staff when he was speaker of the state House. Rubio also hired Sorensen in 2010 to work on his successful U.S. Senate campaign against then-Gov. Charlie Crist.

Sorensen backed Democrat Ron Saunders to take his place when he was term-limited out of representing District 120 in 2006. When Saunders won, Raschein went on to serve as his legislative aide until she too was elected in 2012.

During her time in the state House, Raschein was chairwoman of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriation Subcommittee and the House Natural Resources and Public Lands Subcommittee.

In 2017, Raschein worked on the state and local emergency response to Hurricane Irma, which made landfall in the Keys as a Category 4 storm.

She has a bachelor of science in political science from Florida State University and a master’s of public administration from Florida International University.

After leaving office, Raschein was hired by AshBritt Environmental as its director of government relations.

The disaster recovery company is based in Deerfield Beach. She said if DeSantis appoints her to the Monroe Board of County Commissioners, she will keep her job, but will “recuse myself from anything that might be a conflict.”

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