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In A Race About Legacy, Broward Leaders Accelerate Their Campaigns For Congress

Broward County Mayor Dale Holness adjusts his face mask.
Carline Jean
South Florida Sun Sentinel
Broward County Mayor Dale Holness talks about Broward moving into Phase 2 of reopening from COVID-19 at Fort Lauderdale governmental center on September 11,2020.

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings was a fixture representing South Florida in Congress for decades, until his death last week following a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Elected to 15 terms, he represented a sprawling district that runs from Miramar up to West Palm Beach and Lake Okeechobee.

The race to succeed him for the District 20 seat has already been making waves in Broward County politics.

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County Commissioner Dale Holness planned to announce his campaign on May 1, but launched early after Hastings died on April 6. Holness, who also served as county mayor, received public support from Hastings' son at his announcement event Monday, and claims the late congressman endorsed him before his death.

"I certainly believe that I'll be the person that will carry on his legacy and certainly the congressman knew that," Holness told WLRN this week.

Holness' fellow county commissioner, also a two-time former mayor — and candidate in the race — Barbara Sharief, disagrees.

"He spoke for himself and he was very clear, he did not endorse anybody," Sharief said.

Florida law means both of them will have to give up their seat on the Broward County commission. The State's resign-to-run law means any candidate running for the congressional seat will have to give up their local office, so their terms don't overlap. The losing candidate can't revoke their resignation.

With Holness and Sharief in the running, that means Gov. Ron DeSantis will get the chance to appoint two of his own picks to the nine member Broward County commission until the next election. All current commissioners are Democrats.

"We will see a difference in the makeup, certainly," Holness said.

"I just don't see where that's going to make a huge difference," Sharief told WLRN, citing the number of Democrats outnumbering anyone DeSantis could possibly pick.

Hastings’ 2020 challenger, Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, has already filed paperwork to run again.

Many other local elected officials are rumored to join what’s shaping up to be a crowded race but not Florida Sen. Shevrin Jones. He tweeted he will not pursue Hastings' now-vacated seat.

Caitie Muñoz, formerly Switalski, produces WLRN's midday public affairs program, Sundial weekdays at 1 and 8 p.m. Prior to transitioning to production, Caitie covered news and stories concerning quality of life in Broward County and its municipalities for WLRN News for four years.