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State lawmakers just put five Miami congressional candidates in a pickle.
On Wednesday, the Florida House voted 87-27 in favor of a bill that would force local and state elected officials to resign their seats in order to campaign for a federal office should the new term overlap with the old. With the Florida Senate having already passed the bill, it is now headed to Gov. Rick Scott, whose office says he’ll review the legislation.
If Scott signs the bill into law, he forces nearly a half-dozen local and state lawmakers to choose between holding onto the sure thing and taking the risk of running for the congressional seat that Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is giving up in order to retire. The bill, which seeks to reverse a loophole created years ago to help then-Republican Governor Charlie Crist run for the U.S. Senate, requires candidates to submit a resignation no later than 10 days before the qualifying deadline to run for federal office.
For congressional candidates, that forces a drop-dead decision near the end of April. Qualifying deadline is May 4. The resignation must be effective either the day that the candidates takes their new office, or when the person elected to replace them in their old job would need to be sworn in, whichever is earlier.
Anyone who qualifies to run for federal office and doesn’t resign is immediately revoked from the position they hold.
All five candidates in the race who stand to be affected told the Miami Herald in January that they intend to continue their campaigns: Miami-Dade Commissioner Bruno Barreiro on the Republican side, and State Rep. David Richardson, State Sen. José Javier Rodríguez, Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez and Miami Commissioner Ken Russell among the Democratic candidates.
Three of the five said Wednesday night that nothing had changed, and they’ll either resign or, in Richardson’s case, decline to seek reelection. Russell did not immediately respond.
“I’m in the race all the way,” said Barreiro, the lone Republican affected by the expected change in law.
Rosen Gonzalez confirmed that she intends to file a legal challenge to block the law from taking effect.
“Our campaign will challenge Tallahassee’s unfair decision on behalf of all the candidates who are elected officials,” she said. “Someone has to fight Tallahassee and tell them enough is enough.”
The law is ostensibly intended to save the state money by reducing the domino-effect created when politicians jump from one seat to another, requiring expensive special elections. But the law will also force open Rodriguez’s Senate District 37, a swing district that Republicans will try to claim if Rodriguez runs for Congress.
Rodriguez said he intends to campaign for the Democrat seeking to replace him while also running for Congress.
“Making sure the Democrats hold [Senate Distrct] 37 has been a key part of this process,” he said. “This is not taking anybody by surprise.”