Quick qualifying window for District 5 seat | News, Sports, Jobs

In the days since the death of Lee County District 5 Commissioner Frank Mann on Tuesday, county election officials have worked to put together a special election to fill the vacancy and Gov. Ron DeSantis has issued an executive order stating that he intends to fill the vacancy with a temporary appointment through Nov. 15.

Lee County Supervisor of Elections Tommy Doyle on Friday declared that a primary also will be held if needed for the special election to fill the seat which represents eastern Lee County, including Lehigh Acres.

The special election will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 8. If needed, the primary will be held Tuesday, Aug. 23.

Since Mann died with more than 28 months remaining on his term through 2024, a special election is required by state law. The Governor’s Office also cited state law which gives DeSantis the authority to make an appointment to fill the vacancy until an election can be held.

Therefore, there will be a special election and apparently an appointment from the governor as well.

Doyle said the executive order declaring that DeSantis would fill the vacancy with a temporary appointment, was received by his office on Thursday at 5:39 pm

Due to the quick turnaround to print absentee ballots, Doyle declared Friday that the deadline for those seeking to run for Mann’s seat by petitioning for signatures, would be Saturday, June 25, by 5 pm

The filing period deadline for those paying the filing fee is Tuesday, June 28, at 5 pm

The filing fee is costly: Approximately $5,900 for those running under a party affiliation and $3,961.80 for those who wanted to get on the ballot without a party affiliation.

Those seeking to avoid the filing fee need to gather 1,223 signatures by Saturday, but even more importantly, that required candidates to file a statement of candidacy with the board of elections by Friday at 5 pm with the appointment of a treasurer.

Doyle said the qualifying period was decided upon at approximately 10:30 am after receiving word from the Florida Department of State that it was his call to make on the timing for the qualifying period and the elections.

“It’s the only time we got to get it on the primary election,” Doyle said.

The Lee County Supervisor of Elections office announced the qualifying period to the media through an email at 2:16 pm and then a corrected deadline at 2:42 pm, leaving those seeking to gather signatures just hours to file the appointment of a treasurer with the supervisor of elections,

“I doubt anybody is going to be able to turn anything in,” Doyle said. “It’s not practical to get petitions in this case.”

Doyle said he reached out to party officials Friday morning to inform them of his decision. The reason the cost to be on the party line is about $2,000 more is because the parties receive a portion of those funds, Doyle said. The amount is determined by the salary of the position, which is $100,289.

Doyle said he had been awaiting word from the Florida Secretary of State’s Division of Elections office since Tuesday when he notified them of Mann’s death.

Doyle said state officials did not get back to him until Friday morning. He had been awaiting word on whether the governor or the Division of Elections would be setting the date for the special election as state statute indicates. Doyle said he was told by the state that he could set the date.

“If the state had responded a day earlier, we would have had another day,” Doyle said.

Messages left by the Breeze Newspapers with the Florida Division of Elections and the press office of Gov. Ron DeSantis were not returned as of Friday.

Doyle said absentee ballots were supposed to be sent out to the county’s vendor for printing on Monday but will be delayed until Wednesday, June 29. The ballots need to be sent out to overseas voters 45 days before the Aug. 23 primary election. Doyle also cited new redistricting maps as a factor in the quick turnaround time. Doyle said by having the primary and special election on the same dates as the rest of the state and local primaries and general election, will save the county up to $3 million.

The process for replacing Mann, a Republican, is set in state statute, which requires a special election to be held when a vacancy occurs in an elected county office with more than 28 months left in the term. According to the Florida Constitution, the governor may make an appointment if there is less than 28 months left in the term.

Lee County Republican Party Chair Jonathan Martin has been fielding interest from potential candidates for the seat which encompasses the eastern portion of Lee County, including Lehigh Acres. “There are quite a few names being thrown around,” he said.

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