Doug Wiles, Former Member
Florida House of Representatives
St Augustine, FL
A recent letter to the editor of Historic City News took the St. Augustine Record to task for its editorial on July 20. The Record outlined the process to replace incumbent Sen. John Thrasher on the ballot for Florida Senate District 6 during the upcoming elections should he be named the next president of Florida State University and subsequently remove himself as a candidate.
The letter writer suggested the paper’s analysis was wrong and asked for references in Florida Statutes.
While it is not my intention to defend the Record, comment on Sen. Thrasher’s future, or predict the results of the upcoming election, I do believe it important to set the record straight.
Accordingly, the following are excerpts from the editorial that have drawn the attention of some, with cites from Florida Statutes.
1. “While looking less likely, the offer (to appoint Thrasher as FSU’s president) could come prior to the primary in August. In that instance, he would drop out of the race and St. Augustine Republican Derek Hankerson would face Democrat Kathleen Trued and independent Greg Feldman in the general election.”
(3)(a) In the event that death, resignation, withdrawal, or removal should cause a party to have a vacancy in nomination which leaves no candidate for an office from such party, the filing officer before whom the candidate qualified shall notify the chair of the state and county political party executive committee of such party and…
Comment – Since Hankerson would be the remaining sole Republican candidate, he would be declared the winner of the Republican primary by virtue of being “unopposed.”2. “If Thrasher wins the primary and exits prior to the general election, the Republican Party (members of the state executive committee and county chairmen) will pick a candidate to run in his place. State law would prohibit Hankerson from being that choice.”
(3)(a) (3)(c) Any person who, at the close of qualifying as prescribed in ss. 99.061 and 105.031, was qualified for nomination or election to or retention in a public office to be filled at the ensuing general election or who attempted to qualify and failed to qualify is prohibited from qualifying as a candidate to fill a vacancy in nomination for any other office to be filled at that general election, even if such person has withdrawn or been eliminated as a candidate for the original office sought.3. “Interestingly, according to Supervisor of Elections Vicky Oakes, any absentee ballots already cast at that time — and thousands could be mailed; some primary absentees are already being returned, Oakes says — for Thrasher would count for his successor. So constituents could be voting for a political ghost in this case.”
(3)(a)3. If the vacancy in nomination is for a county office, the state party chair shall notify the appropriate county chair and, within 5 days, the appropriate county chair shall call a meeting of his or her executive committee to consider designation of a nominee to fill the vacancy. The name of any person so designated shall be submitted to the filing officer before whom the candidate qualified within 7 days after notice to the chair in order that the person designated may have his or her name on the ballot of the ensuing general election. If the name of the new nominee is submitted after the certification of results of the preceding primary election, however, the ballots shall not be changed and the former party nominee’s name will appear on the ballot. Any ballots cast for the former party nominee will be counted for the person designated by the political party to replace the former party nominee. If there is no opposition to the party nominee, the person designated by the political party to replace the former party nominee will be elected to office at the general election.
Whether these long-standing provisions in Florida election laws are fair and appropriate is certainly subject to discussion. However, the Record got them right.
Photo credits: © 2014 Historic City News contributed photograph by Doug Wiles