Stories about Florida

Proponents of Florida gambling initiatives aim to submit signatures by Dec. 30; $100 million has been raised surrounding the two measures

Florida Education Champions, sponsors of a sports betting initiative, have submitted 194,287 valid signatures as of Dec. 17.

The measure would authorize sports betting at sports venues, pari-mutuel facilities, and online in Florida. The Florida State Legislature would need to pass legislation to implement the constitutional amendment such as providing for licensing, regulation, consumer protection, and taxation. The amendment would require all online sports betting tax revenue to be dedicated to the Educational Enhancement Trust Fund of the Department of Education. Online sports betting could be conducted by (a) Native American tribes and (b) entities that have existed for at least one year and that have conducted sports betting in at least 10 other states. Such entities could begin conducting sports betting no later than eight months after the amendment is effective. Other entities or organizations could conduct sports betting no sooner than 20 months after the amendment is effective if authorized by state law.

Florida Voters in Charge, sponsors of a casino gaming expansion initiative, had submitted 282,529 valid signatures as of Dec. 17. The initiative would expand casino gaming in Florida by allowing businesses with active cardroom licenses to offer casino gaming as long as they are (a) located 130 miles in a straight line away from any of the seven Seminole tribal casinos and (b) expend $250 million in capital investments (new development and construction costs on the gaming complex) within three years after submitting a notice of commencement of casino gaming.

To qualify for the 2022 ballot, campaigns must submit 891,589 valid signatures. Initiative signatures must be verified by February 1, 2022, and must be submitted to county officials long enough before that date to allow for the verification process. County supervisors of elections have a maximum of 30 days to verify signatures and submit them to the secretary of state. Campaigns are targeting Dec. 30 as their final signature submission date. Florida also has a signature distribution requirement, which requires that signatures equaling at least 8% of the district-wide vote in the last presidential election be collected from at least half (14) of the state’s 27 congressional districts.

Proposed measures are reviewed by the state attorney general and state supreme court after proponents collect 25% of the required signatures across the state in each of one-half of the state’s congressional districts (222,898 signatures for 2022 ballot measures). After these preliminary signatures have been collected, the secretary of state must submit the proposal to the Florida Attorney General and the Financial Impact Estimating Conference (FIEC). The attorney general is required to petition the Florida Supreme Court for an advisory opinion on the measure’s compliance with the single-subject rule, the appropriateness of the title and summary, and whether or not the measure “is facially valid under the United States Constitution.” So far, only Florida Voters in Charge have met the signature requirement to qualify for this review.

According to campaign finance reports covering through Nov. 30, $100.27 million had been raised by committees surrounding the initiatives. Florida Voters in Charge, sponsors of the initiative to expand casino gaming, reported $28.06 million in contributions. Las Vegas Sands Corp gave $27.06 million and Poarch Creek Band of Indians gave $1 million. The committee reported expenditures totaling $27.45 million.

Florida Education Champions, sponsors of the sports betting initiative, reported $37.09 million in contributions ($22.7 million from DraftKings and $14.38 million from FanDuel) and $26.77 million in expenditures.

Standing up for Florida registered to oppose both initiatives. The Seminole Tribe of Florida gave $10 million to the committee. Seminole Gaming gave $10 million to another committee, Voters in Control, which then gave that $10 million to Standing up for Florida.

Politico reported on November 29, 2021, that the Seminole Tribe of Florida was “paying petition gathering firms to not work in Florida during the 2022 midterms as part of an effort to block rival proposed gaming constitutional amendments — a strategy that also includes running a separate informal signature gathering operation and hiring workers that interfere with other petition gatherers.”

Seminole spokesperson Gary Bitner said the tribe “assembled the best team of political consultants in the country [and is] currently engaged to oppose multiple outside interests that have initially invested a combined $60 million in PAC money to hire more than a thousand people to fight the Tribe’s success.”

Las Vegas Sands (donors to Florida Voters in Charge, supporters of the casino expansion initiative) filed a lawsuit asking a judge to order the Seminole Tribe to stop the petition blocking effort, but later withdrew their request for an emergency injunction, saying, “We will not allow any distractions, legal maneuvers or the tribe’s egregious blocking tactics to distract us from that mission. Therefore, we have decided to withdraw our request for an emergency injunction so our team members can remain focused on gathering signatures and not be held up in the courtroom. With our effort reaching this critical stage and our signature gathering progress in full swing, we will not be deterred by legal maneuvers seeking to bring our on-the-ground team members out of the field and tie them up in legal proceedings.”

The Florida State Legislature referred two constitutional amendments to the 2022 ballot. One would abolish the Florida Constitution Revision Commission and the other would allow the state legislature to pass laws prohibiting taking flood resistance improvements into account when calculating a property’s assessed value for property tax purposes.

A total of 78 measures appeared on the Florida statewide ballot between 2000 and 2020, including six measures that appeared on the statewide ballot in odd-numbered years. Of the measures, 71.79% (56 of 78) were approved by voters and 28.21% (22 of 78) were defeated. From 2000 to 2020, an average of about seven measures appeared on the ballot during even-numbered years in Florida.

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Jacksonville City Council race heads to a runoff

A special general election was held on Dec. 7 for the at-large Group 3 seat on the Jacksonville City Council. According to unofficial results, Tracye Polson (D) received 36.7% of the vote, and Nick Howland (R) received 35.9% of the vote. The other two candidates in the race, James Jacobs (D) and Howland Russell (R), each received 13.7% of the vote. Since no candidate broke the 50% threshold to win outright, the top two vote-getters in the race, Polson and Howland, will face off in the Feb. 22 runoff election. The winner will serve until June 2023.

The seat became vacant on Sept. 11 after Tommy Hazouri (D) died from health complications. He had served on the city council since 2015.

Jacksonville is the largest city in Florida and the 14th-largest city in the U.S. by population. It had an estimated population of 949,611 in 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

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Jacksonville City Council special election to be held on Dec. 7

The special general election for Jacksonville City Council At-large Position 3 in Florida is on Dec. 7. Four candidates are competing in the general election: James Jacobs (D), Tracye Polson (D), Nick Howland (R), and Howland Russell (R). 

If necessary, a runoff election is scheduled for Feb. 22. The filing deadline to run passed on Oct. 1.

The special election was called after Tommy Hazouri (D) died on Sept. 11. Hazouri served from 2015 to 2021. 

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General elections held for two Hialeah City Council districts

The city of Hialeah, Fla., held general elections on Nov. 16 for two seats on the city council. Candidates in Group VI and Group VII advanced from the primary on Nov. 2. Elections for the Group V seat and the mayorship were concluded in the primary after a candidate in each race earned more than 50% of the vote.

  • In the Group VI general election, Bryan Calvo defeated Angelica Pacheco, earning 67.5% of the vote. According to unofficial results, Calvo received 5,761 votes to Pacheco’s 2,777.
  • In the Group VII general election, Luis Rodriguez defeated Maylin Villalonga, earning 76.6% of the vote. According to unofficial results, Rodriguez received 6,514 votes to Villalonga’s 1,989.

Hialeah is the fifth-largest city in Florida and the 88th-largest city in the U.S. by population. There are seven seats on the Hialeah City Council. Members of the city council are elected to four-year terms.

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Cherfilus-McCormick certified winner of FL-20 special Democratic primary

Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick defeated second-place finisher Dale Holness by five votes in the special Democratic primary for Florida’s 20th Congressional District, according to newly certified election results. Eleven candidates ran in the primary.

The race went to a recount after the Nov. 2 election, which showed Cherfilus-McCormick leading by five votes. That lead held when the last eligible military and overseas ballots were counted on Nov. 12.

Cherfilus-McCormick is CEO of Trinity Health Care Services. She ran against former incumbent Alcee Hastings in the 2020 and 2018 Democratic primaries, receiving between 26% and 31% of the vote. Cherfilus-McCormick was this primary’s fundraising leader as of Oct. 13 with $3.8 million, including $3.7 million she loaned her campaign. Holness had raised $583,880.

Cherfilus-McCormick emphasized her People’s Prosperity Plan, which includes $1,000-per-month payments to people over 18 making less than $75,000 a year. Her platform also includes Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, and a $20 minimum wage.

Holness, a Broward County Commissioner, was one of five current elected officials running in the primary. His campaign website said he would fight to make the district “a beacon of economic growth throughout America” and would work to ensure that growth “extends equitably across all races, genders, and ethnicities for greater prosperity for all.”

The special election on Jan. 11, 2022, will fill the vacancy left by Alcee Hastings (D), who died in April. Hastings had been in office since 1993. As of September, Inside Elections rated the special election Solid Democratic.

31 votes separate two candidates in FL-20 special Democratic primary

As of 1:45 a.m. Eastern Time on Nov. 3, 31 votes separated candidates Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick and Dale Holness in Florida’s 20th Congressional District special Democratic primary election.

Politico reported shortly before 11:30 Eastern that the race would go to a recount based on results available at that time. Under Florida law, a machine recount is required if the initial election night result is within 0.5 percentage points. If the machine recount results in a margin within 0.25 percentage points, a manual recount occurs. 

Cherfilus-McCormick had 23.8% of the vote and Holness, 23.7%. Barbara Sharief was third with 17.7% and Perry Thurston fourth with 14.7%.

Cherfilus-McCormick is CEO of Trinity Health Care Services. She ran against the previous incumbent, Alcee Hastings (D), in the 2020 and 2018 Democratic primaries, receiving between 26% and 31% of the vote.

Holness serves on the Broward County Commission. He previously served as the county’s mayor and vice mayor, as vice mayor of Lauderhill, and as a Lauderhill commissioner.

Eleven candidates ran in the special Democratic primary. The special election on Jan. 11, 2022, will fill the vacancy left by Hastings, who died on April 6, 2021. Hastings had been in office since 1993. As of September, Inside Elections rated the special election Solid Democratic.

Miami Commissioner Carollo wins re-election, King defeats incumbent Watson

Two of five seats on the Miami Board of Commissioners were up for election on Nov. 2. District 3 Commissioner Joe Carollo won re-election, and Christine King defeated District 5 Commissioner Jeffrey Watson. Watson was appointed to the position in November 2020 to serve the remainder of Keon Hardemon’s term.

Four candidates total ran for District 3, and seven ran for District 5.

Additionally, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez was re-elected. Though the election was officially non-partisan, Suarez is affiliated with the Republican Party. Seventeen of the 100 largest U.S. cities by population held general elections for mayor on Nov. 2. In total, 28 top-100 cities are electing mayors in 2021. Heading into election day, 63 top-100 mayors were affiliated with the Democratic Party, 26 were affiliated with the Republican Party, four were independents, six identify as nonpartisan or unaffiliated, and one mayor did not respond to inquiries about his partisan affiliation.

The Miami Herald described the relationship between the mayor’s and the city commission’s powers as follows:

“Miami’s executive mayor, elected citywide, is a mostly ceremonial position that comes with little legislative power. The mayor can veto legislation, which can be overridden by the five-person City Commission. The mayor can hire and fire the city manager, city government’s chief executive, though the commission can fire the manager, too. To push an agenda, Miami’s figurehead mayor has to convince commissioners to support their issues and promote their initiatives to the public.”

Bovo wins primary for mayor of Hialeah

Esteban “Steve” Bovo Jr. defeated Isis Garcia-Martinez, Fernando Godo, Julio Martinez, and Juan Santana in a nonpartisan primary election for mayor of Hialeah, Florida on November 2, 2021. With 88 percent of precincts reporting, Bovo received 59 percent of the vote, meaning he won outright. If no candidate had received a majority of the votes, the top-two candidates would have competed in a general election on Nov. 16.

Although the elections for and position of the mayor are officially nonpartisan, the candidates running were affiliated with political parties. Bovo is affiliated with the Republican Party. He will succeed term-limited Republican Mayor Carlos Hernandez.

The mayor serves as the city’s chief executive officer and is responsible for proposing a budget, signing legislation into law, appointing departmental directors, and overseeing the city’s day-to-day operations. The mayor also represents the city on the state, national and international levels.

Hialeah is one of 17 of the 100 largest U.S. cities by population that held general elections for mayor on Nov. 2.

Satellite groups involved in final week of FL-20 special Democratic primary

Eleven candidates are running in the special Democratic primary for Florida’s 20th Congressional District. The special election on Jan. 11, 2022, will fill the vacancy left by Alcee Hastings (D), who died in April. Hastings had been in office since 1993. As of September, Inside Elections rated the special election Solid Democratic

Satellite groups got involved in the week leading up to the primary. The Florida Democratic Action PAC spent $102,000 on a cable ad supporting state Rep. Omari Hardy. The Democratic Majority for Israel PAC ran a newspaper ad criticizing Hardy. 314 Action Fund, a group that aims to get more scientists elected, aired an ad supporting Broward County Commissioner Barbara Sharief, who has a background in nursing. Expenditure amounts weren’t available for the latter two ads.

The primary field includes three other current elected officials in addition to Hardy and Sharief: state Rep. Bobby DuBose, Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness, and state Sen. Perry Thurston.

The fundraising leader as of Oct. 13 was Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick with $3.8 million, $3.7 million of which she loaned her campaign. Cherfilus-McCormick ran against Hastings in the 2020 and 2018 Democratic primaries, receiving between 26% and 31% of the vote. She is CEO of Trinity Health Care Services. Sharief was second in fundraising with $895,000, including $756,000 she loaned her campaign.

So far, seven special elections have been called during the 117th Congress. From the 113th Congress to the 116th Congress, 50 special elections were held.