The vacancy created by Democratic state Sen. Jeff Clemens‘ abrupt resignation last week could leave his District 31 constituents without representation in the Senate for the entire 2018 legislative session.
Clemens, who was in line to become the Senate’s top Democrat next November, stepped down Friday after news emerged of an extramarital affair with a lobbyist.
The 2018 legislative session is scheduled for Jan. 9 to March 9. Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher, in a Monday email to the Florida Division of Elections, has suggested a special Jan. 30 primary and special April 10 general election to fill Clemens’ District 31 seat.
Gov. Rick Scott will have the final say on setting special election dates.
District 31 is so heavily Democratic (a 46.6-to-24.1 percent registration advantage over the GOP) that Republicans didn’t even field a candidate for the seat last year.
If no Republican, minor-party candidate or write-in candidate files for the special election, the Democratic primary would fill the seat. Under Bucher’s suggested timetable, District 31 would then have a Democratic senator for the final 39 days of the 2018 session.
But don’t expect Republicans to pass up this race. With a low turnout special election, Palm Beach County GOP Chairman Michael Barnett says, “it’ll be tough but I think we’ll have a shot.”
County GOP Vice Chairwoman Tami Donnally, who lost state House races in 2010 and 2012 in Democrat-tilted districts, says she’s considering a run for the Senate seat.
Even if Republicans don’t win the District 31 seat, the mere presence of a Republican on the special election ballot could mean Democrats have only 15 senators instead of 16 throughout the upcoming session. There are 24 Senate Republicans.
Two Democrats — state Rep. Lori Berman and former state Rep. Irving Slosberg — have said they will run in District 31. Two other Dems — state Rep. David Silvers and Delray Beach Mayor Cary Glickstein — are possible candidates as well.