Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday the special election to fill the vacancy created by the April 6 death of Congressman Alcee Hastings won’t be held until January 2022, meaning residents of the South Florida district will go more than nine months with no representation — far longer than normal.
The action by the Republican governor also means a longer time that a Democratic seat will go unfilled.
Democrats in Congress and candidates to succeed Hastings have been demanding that the Republican governor set dates for the special primary and general elections. One of the candidates filed a federal lawsuit last week asking a judge to order DeSantis to set election dates.
At a news conference in Miami, DeSantis said the primary elections will be set for Nov. 2. The general election will be Jan. 11. The supervisors of elections in Broward and Palm Beach counties asked for much earlier dates.
So far, 10 people, including six current or former elected officials, have declared themselves candidates for the Hastings seat.
The Constitution requires special elections to fill congressional vacancies. Florida law gives date-setting authority to the governor but doesn’t impose any deadline.
Vacancies between elections don’t happen very often. The late U.S. Rep. C.W. “Bill” Young, a Tampa Bay-area Republican, is the only Florida member of Congress to die in office since 2000. Then-Gov. Rick Scott set the special primary for three months later. The special general election was almost five months after Young’s 2013 death.
In October 2009, then-U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler announced he would resign from his Broward-Palm Beach county seat in January 2010.
Then-Gov Charlie Crist set the special primary for early February. The special general election was in mid-April, so the seat was vacant for about three-and-a-half months.
The winner of the special election, U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, has been re-elected ever since.