Governor orders special election to fill District 24 House seat vacated by Harding
File photo: Supervisor of Elections Wesley Wilcox prepares to watch election night results come in on election night at the Marion County Election Center in Ocala, Fla. on Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2021.
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order Monday declaring a special election to fill the Florida House District 24 seat vacated by Ocala Republican Joe Harding, who resigned his seat earlier this month after being indicted by a federal grand jury on fraud charges.
The special primary election will take place on March 7, 2023; if necessary, a special election will be held on May 16, 2023.
Harding, 35, resigned the seat on Dec. 8, one day after he was indicted for using two defunct businesses to apply for COVID-19 relief under Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and his trial is scheduled for Jan. 11 in Gainesville.
Harding, who in November ran unopposed and won a second term in the House, was seen in political circles as a rising star after earning national attention as the sponsor of the so-called “Don’t Say Gay’’ bill, which bans any discussion of gender identity or sexual orientation in Florida classrooms up until third grade.
In the special election, partisan candidates seeking to qualify must pay $1,781.82 as a qualifying fee, candidates with no party affiliation pay $1,187.88. Instead of paying a fee, they can obtain 327 valid signed candidate petitions before 5 p.m. Jan. 5.
The Florida Constitution requires a State Representative to be at least 21 years of age, a resident of the district from which they are elected, and a resident of Florida for two years prior to election.
Candidates do not have to be a resident of District 24 in order to file to run for the seat; however, residence is required once they are elected. Use this link to find out what Florida House district you live in: Find Your Representative | Florida House of Representatives (myfloridahouse.gov)
To date, two candidates, both Republicans, have announced their intention to run for the seat but have not yet filed paperwork, according to the state Department of Elections website. One is Jose Juarez, a local business owner and a newcomer to the local political scene. The second is political activist and business consultant Ryan Chamberlin, who would be making a second attempt to run for political office after a failed attempt for a seat on U.S. Congress.
Unlike other state and county officers, members of this legislative body take office on midnight of the day of the General Election.
Representatives serve two-year terms and are limited to four terms.
Marion County Supervisor of Elections Wesley Wilcox indicated that his office will be requesting a budget amendment to cover the cost of the special election from the Marion County Board of County Commissioners who, in turn, will seek reimbursement from the state.