Decision 2021

Cherfilus-McCormick Named Apparent Winner of District 20 Democratic Primary

Final but unofficial results showed Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick ahead of former Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness

NBC Universal, Inc.

Health care company CEO Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick is the apparent winner of the Democratic primary for Florida's District 20.

Cherfilus-McCormick led former Broward County Commissioner Dale Holness by five votes, according to Broward Elections Supervisor Joe Scott.

"I'm excited. I think now it's sunk in, so this is a very exciting moment," Cherfilus-McCormick told NBC 6 at her victory party in Miramar. "I'm also overwhelmed because people came, they voted, and I know it's a huge responsibility."

The Democratic primary earlier this month was a special election for the seat long held by the late U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, who died in April.

On Friday, Broward and Palm Beach county elections officials announced the final, unchanged vote for the top two finishers after a machine and hand recount, including overseas ballots. Cherfilus-McCormick issued a statement on Twitter claiming victory after the recount.

“I am proud to be recognized tonight finally as the Democratic nominee for Florida’s 20th Congressional District following Alcee Hastings’ legacy of fighting for the rights and welfare of the common person,” she said.

Cherfilus-McCormick loaned her campaign more than $3.7 million and far outspent the other Democrats in the race. She wound up with 11,662 votes to 11,657 for Holness. The result won't be official until the Department of State certifies them Tuesday.

If elected, Cherfilus-McCormick would be the first Haitian American Democrat in Congress.

"This is an opportunity for us, the Haitian American community," she said. "What we should do, how to move forward, lots of questions about how to fill that void."

A recount resumed for the razor-thin race for Florida's District 20. NBC 6's Steve Litz reports

As part of her agenda, Cherfilus-McCormick wants to give a $1,000 stimulus check a month to people who make less than $75,000 during major economic recoveries or necessities.

"This is not a novice or new idea, this is working in other states," she said.

On Thursday, Cherfilus-McCormick sued the canvassing board over three mail-in ballots, asking the judge to not include them in the final tally.

Part of her argument is that the canvass of all ballots must be completed and the results transmitted to the Division of Elections as the “unofficial returns“ no later than noon on the third day after any primary election, "thus, the very last day for canvassing (counting) Vote-by-Mail Ballots is November 4, 2021.”

Cherfilus-McCormick insisted the three came in after that deadline.

"So that is why it is important, as we are going through this process that we are ensuring that all of the rules and laws are being followed adequately and if there are any ambiguities we can attack them now," she said Friday during the recount.

Meanwhile, Holness said he will consult with lawyers soon about a possible lawsuit. Twelve ballots were rejected by the canvassing board because they could not prove they were active overseas military members. Holness says he believes they were disenfranchised.

The Democratic primary is essentially choosing who goes to Washington to represent the 20th district. Businessman Jason Mariner won the Republican primary, but he is considered a longshot to win the general election.

Mariner, an advertising executive and self-described “America First” conservative candidate, served time behind bars on numerous charges, including felony theft, burglary and cocaine possession. He was open during his campaign about his criminal background, and has described himself as someone who "turned their life around."

Cherfilus-McCormick agreed he should have that second chance.

"I think it's going to be an interesting run," She told NBC 6. "Especially with someone like him with that kind of past because you can see the honest truth."

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