Court Decision Puts Commission Primary In Doubt






A Tallahassee court ruling could impact a Broward County Commission Democratic primary.

Broward Circuit Judge Sandra Perlman ruled a week ago that a write-in candidate had to live in Commission District 2 when he filed for office.

Perlman’s ruling opened the County Commission Democratic primary to Republicans and independents.

She based her ruling on a state law that a Tallahassee judge declared unconstitutional on Friday.

Tallahassee Circuit Judge George Reynolds III ruled on Friday that the state law governing residency qualification for write-ins was unconstitutional.

The case involved a write-in who closed Florida House District 96’s Democratic primary in north Broward. That primary pits County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs against former state Rep. Steve Perman.

State law says that a write-in must live in the district upon qualifying. Neither the candidate in Commission District 2 or House District 96 lived in their districts.

The Constitution, however, states that legislators or commissioners need not live in the district until elected.

Reynolds ruled that the Constitution trumps the state law. His ruling mirrors decisions issued by the Florida Supreme Court in the past.

Reynolds was only ruling in the Florida House District 96 primary

But elections law attorney Mark Herron is using the same reasoning as Judge Reynolds in his appeal of Perlman’s  decision in the Broward Commission case.

So whether roughly 53,000 Republicans, independents and members of minor parties will be eligible to vote in the Democratic primary for Commission District 2 is still up in the air.

District 2 encompasses Coconut Creek, Margate and parts of Coral Springs, Deerfield Beach and Pompano Beach.

In House District 96, most political observers believe Jacobs benefitted from the court decision keeping the primary purely Democratic.

Jacobs obviously agreed that closing the primary benefitted her. Ronald Bray, the write-in that closed the primary, does not live in the district and has been associated with Jacobs in the past.  His write-in candidacy was an obvious plant by her campaign.

Campaigning as “the true Democrat” in the race, Jacobs criticizes opponent Perman for making campaign donations in the past to numerous Republican candidates.

Perman said the contributions were to fellow chiropractors. He said he would be more willing to work with the Republicans in Tallahassee than Jacobs.

The political reality is that even if the primary were open in either race, few Republicans and independents would vote, according to a half dozen political consultants questioned.

Even Democrats are not excited by either race. As few as 8,000 Democrats could vote. That figure would put the Democratic turnout at roughly 14 percent in Commission District 2 and 18 percent in House District 96.






7 Responses to “Court Decision Puts Commission Primary In Doubt”

  1. Tax payer says:

    So who is paying mr. Herron?

    I will lay money on the learned Judge Perlman ruling bring held up over so the haw judge out of Tallahassee.


    In the state House case, he represents the Florida Democratic Party. In the commission case, he represents the write-in candidate Tyron Francois. Where Mr. Francois is getting the money is anybody’s guess.

  2. Sam The Sham says:

    Obviously the Constitution trumps the law. This is unfortunate in that this tactic is used by the majority party to keep out the minority party. We see it used here exclusively by Dems but I understand that Reps use it elsewhere or in the past. We need to have this loophole fixed so that tens of thousands are not disenfranchised from their rights to vote in the future.

  3. Ha Ha Ha says:

    #2 above is completely correct.

  4. Kevin Tynan says:

    The basis of the residency requirements in both cases are different and a trial Court decision in Leon County has no binding precidential value in an already decided Broward County trial level case.


    The Constitutional language is similar. The Constitution states that “one commissioner residing in each district shall be elected by the electors of the county.”

    The Broward County charter states that Each Commissioner must be an elector of the County and must be a resident of the particular
    District upon election.”

    The Supreme Court has interpreted the Constitutional requirements — in a Broward case involving the commission — as meaning that a commissioner should be a resident upon election.

    They are different offices. The Tallahassee court decision certainly has no “binding precidential value.” But the arguments continue to be similar and it is not over until its over….which is probably when the Supremes have their say.

  5. Daniel Reynolds says:

    Sorry Kevin, there are multiple court precedents that uphold the decision from Judge Reynolds (no relation). Judge Reynolds decision says the statute in question is in conflict with the constitution and the constitution comes first.

  6. Kevin Tynan says:

    Dan – always like having legal arguments with my nonlawyer friends. 🙂

  7. Kevin Hill says:

    Of course NONE of this reaches the question (as yet untested but the Florida Supreme Court) of WHETHER a write-in closes a primary in the first place. That is originally based on a 15-year old opinion issued by SoS Katherine Harris soon after our constitution was amended in 1998 to provide for “universal” primaries.

    I’m still wondering when or if the SC will ever weigh in on that one, because it is hard to argue that the intent of that constitutional amendment is being upheld when using stooge (or even “sincere”) write-in candidates.