Cherfilus-McCormick Easily Wins Special election in Florida’s FL-20 Congressional District

By Jim Ellis

Democrat Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick easily won Tuesday’s special election in Florida’s FL-20 Congressional District.

Jan. 13, 2022 — Democrat Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, as expected, easily defeated Republican Jason Mariner Tuesday in a district that gave President Biden a 77-22 percent majority in 2020. Cherfilus-McCormick scored a 79-20 percent victory with 55,457 people voting and will now serve the balance of the late Rep. Alcee Hastings’ (D-Delray Beach) final term.

After winning the special Democratic primary over Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness on Nov. 2 by just five votes, Rep-Elect Cherfilus-McCormick can now expect a highly competitive regular election Democratic primary challenge. Holness has already said he will oppose the new incumbent in the 2022 nomination election as he continues to pursue legal action in hopes of overturning the special primary results.

The Florida special congressional election was the nation’s eighth during this legislative session. Like the other seven, the candidate of the party originally holding the seat won the special vote. Five were Democrat seats, and three Republican. A ninth special election, that for resigned Rep. Devin Nunes’ (R) seat in California, has been scheduled for April 5 with a runoff on June 7 if none of the eventual contenders garner majority support in the first vote.

Though predictions of a coming wave Republican election appear to be rampant, the odd-year election pattern reveals no such precursor. As mentioned, 100 percent of the congressional special elections have remained true to the originating party, but that has almost also been true among special elections in state legislatures.

A total of 33 state special elections occurred in 2021. Republicans captured three Democratic seats in Connecticut, Iowa, and Texas, but Democrats turned the tables on Republicans in another three: New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts. Therefore, a net conversion factor of zero resulted.

When the Democrats predicted their “blue wave” coming for the 2018 election, the commensurate election cycle saw much change in the special elections. In the 2017-18 cycle the Democrats flipped a net total of 19 seats that some believe was a prelude to the Democrats’ success in the regular ’18 election.

On the other hand, the specials did not predict the Republicans gaining US House seats in the 2020 election. In the preceding special state legislative elections, both parties converted six seats meaning, like we have so far seen in this cycle, a zero net change. Therefore, suggesting that special election victories are a preview to the succeeding regular election party performance appears to be inconclusive.

Cherfilus-McCormick is a wealthy businesswoman who spent more than $6 million to secure her special election victory. Almost $4 million of that figure was self-funded. In an original field of 11 Democratic candidates, her financial advantage proved decisive in making her a top-tier candidate, and may well have made the ultimate difference in her five-vote primary victory.

The current 20th District is comprised of parts of two counties, Broward and Palm Beach. Two-thirds of the seat lies in the former county, with a third of the district placed in the latter. The 20th starts in the south and southwestern part of Palm Beach County, and then moves down into the western section of Broward, with a swath jutting east to annex a portion of the city of Ft. Lauderdale.

Redistricting will obviously change this seat, but we are unlikely to see a radical shift. According to the 2020 Census Bureau report, the 20th must shed only 7,062 people to reach the state per congressional district population quota of 769,221 individuals. Considering this is a Voting Rights majority minority district and the racial division finds the black segment exceeding 52 percent with the Hispanics at approximately 24 percent, we can expect to see a new district that largely corresponds to these numbers.

The FL-20 Democratic win brings the party to their full projected compliment of 222 US House members. Republicans, because of Nunes’ resignation, recede to 212.

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