Hinting that Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott might try to slow-walk a special election in a heavily Democratic Senate district in Palm Beach County, Florida Democratic Party Chairman Stephen Bittel today urged the governor to “immediately” set a date for voters to choose a replacement for hastily departed Sen. Jeff Clemens.
Clemens, who had been in line to become Senate Democratic leader next year, abruptly resigned last week after admitting to an affair with a lobbyist.
Scott’s office responded late today that an announcement is coming soon.
“Gov. Scott plans to call for a special election in accordance with Florida law. Our office will work with the Secretary of State and local officials, and we will have an announcement soon,” Scott spokesman John Tupps said.
In addition to Clemens’ Palm Beach County Senate seat, Bittel is urging Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner to quickly schedule a special election for the Miami state House seat that became vacant this week when Democrat Daisy Baez resigned.
Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher — a former Democratic state House member — has suggested a Jan. 30 primary and April 10 general election to replace Clemens in Senate District 31. Under that scenario, constituents in the heavily Democratic district would likely go through the entire 2018 legislative session without representation in the Senate.
The legislative session runs Jan. 9 to March 9.
Bucher said her suggestion accommodates state laws — such as a required 45-day period to mail ballots to military personnel and overseas voters — and gives her office breathing room to handle Palm Beach County’s March 13 municipal elections.
Bittel’s letter argues that “the administrative convenience of a local supervisor of elections cannot serve as the basis for denying the residents of Senate District 31 and House District 114 of their elected voice in the state legislature. Delay for partisan advantage is not an option. Postponement until after a legislative session is not an option.”
Bittel’s letter does not suggest a specific date for elections.
But, the Democratic chairman says: “Failure to act immediately denies these Florida citizens the vital representation that is fundamental to their rights as citizens. Leaving these seats open is an obvious suppression of voter rights that cannot stand.”
Detzner spokeswoman Sarah Revell said the secretary of state’s office “is working closely with the Governor’s office on the special election for Senate District 31 and more details will be forthcoming.”