House Speaker won’t seat winner of District 97 seat until after the legislative session is over. Democrats ask why not sooner?

Dan Daley
Dan Daley

Florida Democrats are blasting Republican House Speaker Jose Oliva for not placing Dan Daley in the House District 97 seat before the end of the spring legislative session.

Daley, a Coral Springs Commissioner and a Democrat, was declared the winner in HD 97 this week after he was the only candidate to qualify to run for the seat vacated last month by Jared Moskowitz. But Oliva is citing Florida election law in choosing not to seat him until the scheduled date of the general election, which is set for June 18.

The seat became open after Gov. Ron DeSantis picked Moskowitz, a Democrat, to serve in his administration as director of the Division of Emergency Management Director back in December.

The governor announced last month that there would be a special primary election for the seat on April 9, with the general election set for June 18.

That’s the same timeline he laid out for the two other state House seats currently without representation – in Pasco County and in North Florida. Both of those seats were vacated after DeSantis selected GOP incumbents to also serve in his administration.

Those special election dates are problematic in that all three districts won’t have representation for the entire spring legislative session, scheduled to run from March 5 to May 3.

Oliva says Florida law gives him no choice in the matter.

“The special election for all three races is  set for June 19, 2019.  The unopposed candidate will be deemed elected and seated on that date,” he said in a statement. “The House has consistently followed this law.  As recently as 2018, five Republican candidates had no primary or general election opposition, yet were not seated until the close of the polls on the night of the general election.”

In Daley’s case, Democrats say that since Daley is the only candidate to qualify in the House District 97 race, there is no longer the need for any special election, and thus no reason not to seat Daley at least halfway through the session in April.

That’s because DeSantis’ executive order calling for all three special elections stated that in the event that there is no need for a primary election or special general election, the date of the general election should be moved up to April 9.

House District 97 encompasses Parkland, the site of last year’s shooting massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, a fact noted by state Democrats in calling out Oliva.

“Jose Oliva’s effort to deny the people of HD 97 a voice in Tallahassee is an insult,” said Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo in a statement.

“Oliva is leaving the people of Parkland without representation during a legislative session where Republicans intend to force through an NRA backed bill that would arm our teachers. This is a shameful effort to try and silence their voices, while he continues to lift up national embarrassments like Anthony Sabatini.”

(Sabatini is the Lake County House Republican who has made national news over the past two weeks after it was revealed that he appeared in blackface back in high school. Despite intense criticism, Oliva has opted not to impose any sanctions on the freshman lawmaker).

“He’s deliberately leaving the Parkland community without representation this legislative session and blatantly violating @GovRonDeSantis’ Executive Order,” tweeted Reggie Cardozo, a veteran Democratic consultant.

Democrats are hugely outnumbered in the Florida House, with currently just 46 members compared to 71 Republicans.

DeSantis picked Republican Danny Burgess in the Pasco County House District 38 seat to head the Department of Veteran Affairs, and Halsey Beshears to lead the Department of Business and Professional Regulation in the North Florida House District 7 seat.



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