After the appointment last week of former Rep. Danny Burgess to head the state Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Gov. Ron DeSantis has scheduled special elections that could keep open three Florida House seats throughout the 2019 legislative session.
DeSantis issued an executive order scheduling April 9 primary elections and June 18 special elections to replace Burgess, R-Zephryhills, former Rep. Halsey Beshears, R-Monticello, and former Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Coral Springs. DeSantis last month appointed Beshears to serve as secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation and Moskowitz to serve as director of the state Division of Emergency Management.
The 2019 session will start March 5 and is scheduled to end May 3, making it possible that the three House seats will be vacant for the entire session.
The executive order, issued Thursday and posted on the state Division of Elections website, includes a provision that leaves open the possibility the seats could be filled in April. That provision, in part, says that if a primary election in a race does not need to be held, the special election would be scheduled on the April 9 primary date.
While a qualifying period for the races will not be held until Feb. 13 and Feb. 14, candidates have emerged for all three contests.
At this point, the race to replace Beshears in sprawling House District 7 appears headed to toward requiring an April primary and June special election. Port St. Joe Republican Jason Shoaf and Crawfordville Republican Mike Watkins are preparing for a GOP primary, while Tallahassee Democrat Ryan Terrell has also opened a campaign account.
Before being appointed secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Beshears was re-elected in November without opposition in the district, which is made up of Calhoun, Franklin, Gulf, Jefferson, Lafayette, Liberty, Madison, Taylor, Wakulla and part of Leon counties. Some of those counties are expected to draw heavy attention during the 2019 session because they sustained major damage in Hurricane Michael
Burgess also was easily re-elected in November in Pasco County’s House District 38, where he faced an opponent who ran without party affiliation. DeSantis and the state Cabinet on Thursday approved Burgess’ appointment as executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
Wesley Chapel Democrat Kathy Lewis and Dade City Republican Randy Maggard have opened campaign accounts as a first step toward running to replace Burgess.
Meanwhile, in Broward County’s House District 97, Coral Springs Democrat Dan Daley is the only candidate who has opened an account to run to replace Moskowitz, who won an August primary and did not face a general-election opponent in November.