TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Some candidates running to replace Democratic U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings are saying it’s a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to represent the diverse South Florida district.
In this case, that’s hardly an exaggeration. Eleven Democrats are on the ballot in Tuesday’s primary special election, including state Rep. Omari Hardy, who was three years old when Hastings was elected in 1992.
Hastings was the longest serving member of Florida’s congressional delegation before he died in April after suffering from pancreatic cancer. While two Republican candidates are seeking the GOP nomination to run for U.S. Congressional District 20, the district is heavily Democratic, making the winner of the Democratic primary the heavy favorite to go to Washington after the January general election.
“These types of seats open up once in a lifetime,” said state House Democratic Leader Bobby DuBose. “Eleven people, it’s a nice-sized field.”
Turnout is expected to be low on Tuesday, and it’s conceivable the next U.S. House member to represent the district can win the primary with 10% of the vote. The district is more than 61% Democratic and about 13% Republican. In the 2020 election, Hastings earned 78.7% of the vote to defeat Republican Greg Musselwhite. Musselwhite is again running for the GOP nomination, facing Jason Mariner.
Sen. Perry Thurston and former Rep. Priscilla Ann Taylor are also seeking the seat, along with Broward County Commissioners Dale Holness and Barbara Sharief, both of whom previously served as county mayor. Others on the Democratic ballot are Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, Elvin Dowling, Phil Jackson, Emmanuel Morel and Imran Uddin Siddiqui.
Cherfilus-McCormick, a health care company CEO, loaned her campaign more than $3.7 million and has far outspent the other Democrats in the race. Sharief was the second highest spender as of mid-October, with about $700,000 in expenditures.
The district is nearly 54% Black and covers parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties. Of the more than 345,000 eligible primary voters, more than 23,000 Democrats and more than 8,600 Republicans had already cast ballots as of Wednesday.
Every Democrat on the ballot is a person of color, while the two Republicans are white.
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