Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick the Favorite in This Week’s Special Congressional Election in South Florida

Nine months after the death of longtime U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., voters in South Florida will choose a candidate to replace him in Tuesday’s special congressional election.

Businesswoman Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, who won the Democratic primary in November, is a heavy favorite to win the seat on Tuesday. She faces Republican Jason Mariner, Libertarian Mike ter Maat and two candidates–Jim Flynn and Lenny Serratore–who are both running with no party affiliation. Shelley Fain is running as a write-in candidate.

A majority-minority district covering parts of Broward and Palm Beach Counties, this is a very secure district for Democrats. Hastings took 78 percent of the vote in 2020 while Republican Greg Musselwhite pulled 22 percent. Joe Biden took 77 percent of the vote in this district in 2020 while Donald Trump got 22 percent.

After several recounts, Cherfilus-McCormick prevailed by Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness and a large crowd to win the Democratic nomination. After recounts were finished and with all votes in, Cherfilus-McCormick beat Holness by five votes–11,662–23.76 percent–to 11,657 votes–23.75 percent.

After taking 26 percent of the Democratic primary vote against Hastings in 2018 and 32 percent of it last year, Cherfilus-McCormick ran a third time and she and Holness outpaced the field. Holness drew heavily in Broward County taking 29 percent of the vote there while Cherfilus-McCormick pulled 21 percent, enough for second place there. But she ran away in Palm Beach County, taking 30 percent while he garnered only 8 percent there.

The rest of the field finished behind the top two Democrats. Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief stood in third with 18 percent followed by former state Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Ft. Lauderdale, who led Democrats in the Florida House during his time there and ran for his party’s nomination for attorney general back in 2014, with 15 percent.

Other candidates placed in the single digits. Former state Rep. Bobby DuBose, D-Ft. Lauderdale, who was one of his party’s co-leaders in the Florida House the past two years, pulled 7 percent. Former state Rep. Omari Hardy, D-West Palm Beach, who also served as a teacher and on the Lake Worth City Commission, took 6 percent. Priscilla Taylor, who served in the Florida House and on the Palm Beach County Commission, garnered 3.5 percent. Community activist and author Elvin Dowling, who served as the chief of staff of the National Urban League and as an aide on Capitol Hill, took 1.3 percent. Emmanuel Morel, a labor consultant who has run for Congress and for legislative office before, was back for another try and pulled 1 percent. Phil Jackson, a Navy veteran who worked in higher education, took .7 percent and Imran Uddin Siddiqui garnered .6 percent.

On the Republican side, Mariner took 58 percent, beating Musselwhite for the GOP’s nomination. But less than 6,100 Republicans voted–while more than 49,000 Democrats did, showing how blue this district is.

Musselwhite broke 20 percent against Hastings in 2020–no mean feat considering the Democrat had no opposition in 2018 and took more than 80 percent in 2016 and 2014.

With the Legislature ready to kick off redistricting, no matter what happens on Tuesday, some candidates are already gearing for the August primary and the general election in November. Holness has already said that he will seek a rematch against Cherfilus-McCormick. Businessmen Dwight Anderson and Pradel Vilme have also filed to run in the Democratic primary. Sharief could also make another congressional bid.

In the meantime, businessman Vic DeGrammont, who ran in 2020, is seeking the Republican nomination while Serratore has filed to run with no party affiliation in November.

Kevin Derby
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