The race for South Florida’s vacant Congressional seat is headed for a recount.

As of Wednesday afternoon, a dozen votes separated the leaders in the Democratic primary for House District 20. Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness and businesswoman Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick emerged as the top two vote-getters from a field of 11 candidates.

With mail-in and overseas ballots still to be counted, Holness had 11,644 votes to Cherfilus-McCormick’s 11,632.

Alfredo Olvera, president of the Dolphin Democrats, said voter turnout — 16% — was disappointing.

“The winner of this primary will be not only elected by a small percentage of all registered voters, but they will also win this election by a handful of votes,” Olvera said. “This district needed a voice by all not by some. We have to start building the bench and the county and state party need to step in and help.”

The Dolphins membership recommended Broward County Commissioner Dr. Barbara Sharief, who finished third with 7,272 votes. Olvera said Holness answered a questionnaire from the county’s oldest LGBT political club, but Cherfilus-McCormick chose not to participate.

It was a similar story in Palm Beach where Palm Beach County Human Rights Council President Rand Hoch said Cherfilus-McCormick missed an interview with his group which resulted in Sharief picking up the endorsement. Hoch, however, said neither Cherfilus-McCormick nor Holness are adversaries to the LGBT community.

“In my personal conversations both have been very supportive of the LGBTQ community and our causes,” Hoch said. “They both clearly had an understanding of our community and our needs.”

Hoch added Cherfilus-McCormick was all over the television with ads, while Holness deployed a door-knocking ground game to get his message across to voters. 

Florida Sen. Perry Thurston finished fourth with 7,272 votes, followed by Rep. Bobby DuBose with 3,457 votes and Rep. Omari Hardy with 2,900 votes.

The special election, triggered by the death of longtime Congressman Alcee Hastings in April created a power struggle among the establishment. Congressional District 20, one of the bluest in the country, covers large swaths of minority neighborhoods in Broward and Palm Beach Counties, stretching from Lake Okeechobee to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean.

“As Democrats we must be strategic,” Olvera said. “We cannot continue to have primaries with 11 Democrats on the ballot, several of whom had to resign to run, leaving their seats open to Republican appointments!”

Hoch said Hastings had an amazing staff who were able to still provide constituent services, but the process should have never taken so long. While Thurston and DuBose are termed out, Hardy could run for a state office again. All three tendered their resignations effective Jan. 11, 2022 meaning the districts will likely be without representation when the regular legislative session convenes in Tallahassee.

“I’m glad it finally took place,” Hoch said. “Our people showed up to vote, but I do feel bad for people who are at risk of being without representation by the timing of all of this.”

Meanwhile, Jason Mariner won the Republican nomination with close to 60% of the vote. Mariner started an advertising firm out of his garage in Jupiter and has been open and honest about serving prison time for addiction to prescription pain medication.

The general election is Jan. 11, 2022.

All vote totals are still uncertified results. For more information visit:


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