Florida's GOP governor will hold open an overwhelmingly Democratic U.S. House seat for eight months, depriving Democrats of a seat while they hold a narrow majority.
Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday announced that a U.S. House seat that became vacant in April won't be filled until January 2022 — a move Democrats are slamming as a partisan political play to deprive their party of a House seat.
"Governor DeSantis has shown his true colors in his racist decision to deny voting representation to hundreds of thousands of African-American citizens for the balance of 2021," Rep. Gerry Connolly (R-VA) tweeted after the announcement. "He dishonors the memory of Alcee Hastings and brings disgrace on himself."
DeSantis said at a Tuesday news conference that a general election to fill the late Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) seat won't be held until Jan. 11, 2011. That means the district, which voted for President Biden by a whopping 55-point margin in 2020, will go at least 280 days without a representative. (Hastings died on April 6 of pancreatic cancer.)
That's roughly double the amount of time three previous U.S. House special elections in the state remained vacant, according to Daily Kos Elections' David Nir. Those three seats remained vacant for 148 days, 144 days, and 100 days, per Nir's calculations.
Democrats had already been criticizing DeSantis for waiting a month to announce the special election to replace Hastings.
On April 16, four Democratic House members held an event demanding DeSantis call the special election and accusing him of playing politics by not doing so.
"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 to get for us to get what we think is a very common-sense agenda through," Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL) said, according to the Orlando Sun-Sentinel.
Currently, Democrats have a 218-212 majority. Five seats are vacant, four of which were held by Democrats before they came open either due to deaths of members of Congress or resignations to join President Joe Biden's administration.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) had more biting criticism, saying there is "no good reason, none whatsoever, to wait one more day."
"Unless of course you want to play petty partisan politics or have no regard for your own state's constituents," Wasserman-Schultz said, according to the Sun-Sentinel report. "That's the only reason for DeSantis to delay calling an election."
Democratic candidate Elvin Dowling, who is running for the seat, filed a federal lawsuit on April 29 seeking to force DeSantis to set the date.
DeSantis is not the only Republican governor to hold open a U.S. House seat by announcing a long special election period.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced in March that a special election to fill the seat of former Rep. Marcia Fudge, who is now secretary of Housing and Urban Development under Biden, won't take place until Nov. 2, 2021. Fudge resigned on March 10, meaning her safe Democratic seat will be vacant for 237 days.
But that decision left DeWine in a bind when Ohio GOP Rep. Steve Stivers announced he will resign his safe Republican seat on May 16. DeWine called a special election to replace Stivers for the same date as Fudge's special election, though Stivers' constituents will be without a voting member of Congress for a much shorter 170 days.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.