The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Five votes decide winner of House Democratic primary after Florida recount

Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, seen Nov. 12 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, seen Nov. 12 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Amy Beth Bennett/AP)
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A Florida primary to select the Democrat who will run in a special election to fill the House seat of the late Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D) was decided by five votes.

Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, a health-care executive, emerged victorious Tuesday after Florida Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee ordered a machine ballot recount of the tight race. An initial vote count found Cherfilus-McCormick nearly deadlocked with Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness, with Holness leading by 12 votes out of more than 49,000 cast.

The final recount, according to the Associated Press, found that Cherfilus-McCormick received 11,662 votes, while Holness received 11,657.

Florida recount to decide House Democratic primary to fill seat of late Rep. Hastings

The initial 12-vote difference fell far under the threshold for an automatic review of ballots. The remaining nine Democrats in the crowded primary had conceded defeat.

Before the official recount numbers were released, Cherfilus-McCormick had already claimed a victory, tweeting Saturday that her win “demonstrates again how every vote counts.”

Her website Tuesday said simply, “We did it District 20. Let’s get to work.”

Florida’s 20th Congressional District connects majority-Black cities in suburbs from Palm Beach County to Broward County and was represented by Hastings until his death from pancreatic cancer in April.

Cherfilus-McCormick had previously challenged Hastings for the seat in 2018 and 2020 and largely self-funded her 2021 campaign. Holness, who was close to Hastings, claimed that the congressman had quietly endorsed him before his death, but other candidates questioned whether that qualified as an endorsement.

Cherfilus-McCormick is favored to win the seat in a Jan. 11 special election, where she will face Republican Jason Mariner, a former felon who didn’t complete Florida’s new requirements to restore his rights and seek political office. Joe Biden carried the district by 56 percentage points in 2020 in winning the presidency.

David Weigel contributed to this report.