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Candidate lineups are now complete in special elections for South Florida legislative districts. The seats in question will become vacant just as the 2022 legislative session begins, with prominent community leaders coming forward for each of the three openings.
One result is already clear: There’s little chance whoever wins the elections will get to cast a vote in Tallahassee before the November 2022 election, leaving voters unrepresented during the next annual session.
The candidates had a Wednesday deadline to file signatures or pay a qualifying fee to get on the ballot for the upcoming Jan. 11 special primaries in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
Three of the candidates start out with a valuable political commodity: name recognition in the communities in which they’re running.
Judy Stern, a political consultant who is working for or supporting each of the three candidates, said that is an advantage — especially for contests that have to compete for attention during the holiday season and where super low voter turnout is likely.
The highest-profile candidates are:
Rosalind Osgood, currently chairwoman of the Broward School Board, is running to fill a Broward County seat in the Florida Senate.
Osgood is an associate pastor at New Mount Olive Baptist Church, one of the biggest, most important Black churches in Fort Lauderdale. She is also CEO of the Mount Olive Development Corp.
Osgood was also a champion of former Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie, a prominent figure in the Black community.
In the 33rd state Senate District, 76% of the registered Democrats are Black.
Josephus “JoJo” Eggelletion III is running for a Broward seat in the Florida House of Representatives.
His late father, Josephus Eggelletion was a member of the Broward County Commission and the Florida House after previous service as a Lauderdale Lakes city councilman. He resigned the County Commission in 2009 after pleading guilty in a federal corruption investigation.
Eggelletion III’s father had been a school teacher and his mother is currently the longest-serving school principal in Broward County. His father, grandfather and uncle all were longtime barbers, a job that put them at the center of goings-on. As detailed on film, in academic journals and in news accounts, barbershops have often functioned as community centers in Black neighborhoods.
In the 94th state House District, 76% of the registered Democrats are Black.
Clarence Williams is a retired police chief in Riviera Beach.
The city is a major population center in the 88th House District, which runs along or near Interstate 95 from Delray Beach to Lake Park and includes a major part of West Palm Beach; 66% of the district’s registered Democrats are Black.
Stern said the special primaries will almost certainly have exceedingly low turnout, as illustrated by the Nov. 2 special primary election in which voters picked Cherfilus-McCormick to replace the late U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings.
“People showed a lack of interest in a special congressional race. There’s not much hope that people will care about these elections,” Stern said.
The Jan. 11 special primaries will be held at the same time as the special general election for the new member of Congress.
Mail ballots for the Jan 11 primary will go out in the middle of the holiday season in December. The first day of in-person early voting is New Year’s Day. (The first day is dictated by state law, based on the date of the election.)
The Jan. 11 special primary elections and the March 8 general election for two of the seats stem from the resignations of state Sen. Perry Thurston and state Reps. Bobby DuBose and Omari Hardy.
All ran, unsuccessfully, for Congress and the state’s resign-to-run law forced them to submit irrevocable resignations.
Gov. Ron DeSantis waited far longer than he and other governors have previously to set the dates to fill the vacancies. DeSantis’s timetable delays the selection until just before the end of the spring legislative session, scheduled to end on March 11.
Eggelletion and three other Democrats qualified to run for the Broward seat currently represented by DuBose.
Also running are Daryl Campbell, Rod Kemp and Elijah Manley.
Campbell is said to be close to DuBose, having worked as a past campaign aide.
Manley, who unsuccessfully ran for state House last year, was the impetus for a lawsuit seeking a court order to require DeSantis to set special election dates. On Oct. 27, just 12 days after that lawsuit was filed, DeSantis set the dates.
The 94th District is different from the other two contests because only Democrats are running. That means the Jan. 11 primary automatically becomes a general election open to all of the district’s voters, and the winner becomes the next state representative.
Even though that will happen early in the spring legislative session, the new lawmaker might not be seated. The decision on when to seat the next Democratic state representative is up to Republican House Speaker Chris Sprowls.
In 2019, Democratic state Rep. Dan Daley was first elected to his northwest Broward seat in a special election when no other candidates came forward to win. But then-House Speaker Jose Oliva declined to seat Daley until the date that would have been the date of the special election had there been one. That didn’t take place until after the completion of that year’s legislative session.
“Ultimately, like it was last time, it’s up to the speaker,” Daley said Wednesday, adding that there have been some cases in the past when speakers have gone ahead and seated the winner before the date of the special election if they faced no other contests from the voters. “The winner of the [District 94] primary ought to be able to sit as quickly as reasonably possible, so the residents of that district are not out for an entire session, like mine were.”
The Legislature has been meeting in special session about COVID-19 issues and Jenna Box Sarkissian, communications director for Sprowls, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Competing with Osgood for the Democratic nomination in the Senate district currently represented by Thurston is Terry Ann Williams Edden.
Edden has unsuccessfully run for the Florida Senate in 2008 and 2020 and for the Broward County Commission in 2014.
Republican Joseph C. Carter will be on the general election ballot in the heavily Democratic district.
Williams is competing with Jervonte “Tae” Edmonds for the Democratic nomination in the Palm Beach County district currently represented by Hardy.
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The state Division of Elections website shows a third Democrat, Rick King, submitted paperwork and a check for the fee on Wednesday, but he was not listed as a qualified candidate four hours after the noon deadline.
Republican Guarina Torres will be on the March 8 ballot in the heavily Democratic district.