Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, a progressive Democrat who campaigned on sending Americans a monthly $1,000 check, will win a special election on Tuesday to replace the late US Rep. Alcee Hastings in his South Florida district, CNN projects.
Cherfilus-McCormick defeated Republican Jason Mariner for the heavily Democratic seat, leading with more than 78% of the vote as of 8 p.m. ET. She now heads to Washington, where she will be the first Democrat of Haitian descent to serve in Congress, according to the National Haitian American Elected Officials Network. The Democratic majority in the House now grows to 10 lawmakers ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, when President Joe Biden’s party will attempt to hold on to its legislative power.
Cherfilus-McCormick, a businesswoman who had twice unsuccessfully challenged Hastings, surprised many when she emerged as the victor in the crowded November primary to succeed the longtime lawmaker who died in April. Running on an unabashedly progressive platform while spending millions of her own dollars, Cherfilus-McCormick defeated several seasoned politicians also running for the seat.
The Democratic primary proved much closer than Tuesday’s contest. Cherfilus-McCormick pulled ahead in the primary by the narrowest of margins – five votes – over Broward County Supervisor Dale Holness after a hand recount.
Cherfilus-McCormick built her campaign around progressive policies like “Medicare for All” and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. She has also embraced a universal basic income, a policy made popular by former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, and has proposed providing $1,000 monthly checks to Americans paid for with tax increases on the wealthy. In Congress, Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota has introduced a bill to provide most Americans with a universal basic income, though it hasn’t gained traction.
Given the demographics of the district – it’s one of only two majority Black seats in Florida – and its voting patterns (Biden won 77% of the vote there in 2020), winning the primary made Cherfilus-McCormick the heavy favorite in Tuesday’s special general election. She also had a significant financial advantage thanks to her personal wealth. She loaned her campaign about $6 million while Mariner had raised about $100,000 through mid-December, according to campaign finance reports.
Cherfilus-McCormick is CEO of Trinity Health Care Services, a home health care company in Miramar. On a financial disclosure filed in December, she reported earning $6.4 million in 2021.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis scheduled the election to take place on the first day of the state’s legislative session at a time when many voters were just returning to work from the holidays.
Hastings died in April after a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer. His constituents, overwhelmingly Black and Latino, have been without representation in the House for the 280 days since his passing. Democrats accused DeSantis of intentionally delaying a vote to deprive House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of critical votes in the narrowly divided chamber.
It won’t be long before Cherfilus-McCormick will have to hit the campaign trail again since she’ll have to defend her seat in November. First, though, she’ll have to win the nomination again. Holness, the primary opponent who finished second, has already filed to run in the regularly scheduled Democratic primary for the midterms, setting up a rematch with Cherfilus-McCormick in August.
The district boundaries are subject to change when Florida lawmakers finalize new congressional maps this spring.
This story has been updated with additional information.