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‘He’s forfeiting responsibility’: Florida Democrats criticize DeSantis for not setting special election date

Nicole Silverio, DCNF

Florida Democrats have criticized Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis for delaying a special election date to fill the state’s empty seat in the House.

A vacancy currently stands in Florida’s 20th district after the death of Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings on April 6 from pancreatic cancer. Thomas Kennedy, a member of the Democratic National Committee, said DeSantis is acting authoritarian by forfeiting responsibility and denying representation for not establishing an election date, according to The Hill.

“He’s just a very punitive guy with an authoritarian streak and I wouldn’t put it past him to slow-walk it,” Kennedy told The Hill. “Even if that’s not the intention, the failure to act and schedule this leaves the people in the district without a representative. He’s forfeiting responsibility and denying representation.”

Under Florida state law, the governor is required to set a special election date when filling an open vacancy. In a floor vote last week, the Republican-controlled legislature voted against Democrats’ push to require the governor to fill in the seat within 14 days of a vacancy, according to The Hill.

Over a dozen Democrats, including state House Minority Leader Bobby DuBose and state Sen. Perry Thurston, have entered the race to fill Hastings’ seat this month. Only one Republican, Rep. Greg Musselwhite, has campaigned, Florida Politics reported.

Barry Edwards, a political science lecturer at the University of Central Florida, said the delay may be caused by the state setting new voting laws before its session ends on April 30. Edwards said the governor may be waiting for the state’s new voting laws to be put in place before an election.

“The main consideration has to be a practical one about voting rights and procedures for voting. You have to think about that to see what the procedures are going to be,” he said, according to The Hill.

Edwards added that a special election is a political disadvantage for DeSantis since a Democrat is highly likely to win the seat.

“This seat is going to be won by a Democrat. There’s not much political advantage for DeSantis to rush the new representative into office,” Edwards said.

During a video news conference earlier this month, four Democratic members of the U.S. House urged the governor to hold an election immediately. Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel said the delay prevents them from passing a “common sense” agenda.

“Our concern is that there is such a close majority of Democrats in the House that any stalling, any less Democrats that are there-and stalling makes it more difficult for us to get what we think is a very common sense agenda through,” Frankel said at the conference.

Based on past special elections, DeSantis will likely schedule the election in the summertime, according to Florida Politics.

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