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The first congressional election of the year is taking place Tuesday in Florida’s 20th Congressional District. House Democrats are likely to get a slight boost in their majority, and fill a seat that’s been vacant since April 2021.

Democrat Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick is the front runner in the special election in Florida’s 20th Congressional District, to succeed the late Democrat Alcee Hastings for the Broward-Palm Beach County seat.

If she wins, she would be the first woman to represent the district and the first Democratic Haitian-American ever elected to Congress. Republican Mia Love of Utah was the first Haitian-American to serve in the House.

Jason Mariner, an advertising executive and ex-felon, is the Republican candidate in a district that is considered one of the most Democratic in Florida.

Others on the ballot include Libertarian Mike ter Maat and independents Jim Flynn and Leonard Serratore.

Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick speaks with the media after being declared the winner of the South Florida 20th Congressional District by the Broward elections Canvassing Board on Friday, Nov. 12, 2021, in Lauderhill. / Credit: John McCall/Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

As of Monday afternoon, Democrats held a large lead for returned ballots in what is expected to be a low-turnout election. More than 37,000 mail ballots or early votes in Broward and Palm Beach County were from registered Democrats, while just over 6,000 were from registered Republicans and 5,000 were from voters who didn’t register with a party.

Cherfilus-McCormick, a lawyer and the CEO of a home health care company, won a tight and crowded primary in November by just five votes. She led the field in fundraising, and loaned herself millions throughout the campaign, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.

She ran as a progressive who supports President Biden’s agenda, and monthly $1,000 payments to adults making less than $75,000 a year.

The plan has little chance of passing in Congress.

“Anyone who reached out, we talked to them about the plan, we explained the plan to them. So, it was never an intention of having anyone believe that ‘oh you just vote and you get the money,’ she told CBS 12 about her stimulus payment “People’s Prosperity” plan.

Mariner has framed his campaign as a redemption from his time in prison, and criticized Cherfilus-McCormick’s proposed payment plan. He’s a strong supporter of former President Trump, and has questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election.

If Cherfilus-McCormick wins, Democrats would have 222 seated members in the House, bringing their majority in the House to 10 votes and giving them a bit more breathing room when passing bills.

Republican Governor Ron DeSantis set the election date one month after Hastings’ death, leaving the seat without representation, and House Democrats with an even tighter majority, for nine months. Local Democrats have proposed bills to shorten the timeline for filing legislative vacancies.

“It is difficult. The supervisor did not choose the election date,” said Ivan Castro, communications coordinator at the Broward County department of elections. He noted they ran TV ads to boost turnout.

“We haven’t had an election where early voting has started on New Year’s Day,” added Alison Novoa, spokesperson for the Palm Beach County elections department. She added that they overstaffed in preparation for this election.

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