Democrat Lori Berman cruises to win in Florida Senate election

More than five months after the seat became vacant, Lantana Democrat Lori Berman easily won a special election Tuesday in a Palm Beach County Senate district.

With 99 percent of the precincts reporting, Berman, a longtime state House member, had captured 75 percent of the vote in Senate District 31, according to unofficial totals posted on the state Division of Elections website. Lake Worth Republican Tami Donnally had received 25 percent.

“Congratulations Senator-elect @loriberman!” the Florida Democratic Party tweeted Tuesday night. “SD 31 has a progressive champion in Senator Berman —- as a Representative she has been a leader on women’s issues, pushed for commonsense gun violence prevention measures, advocated for public schools, and fought for seniors!”

Berman succeeds former Sen. Jeff Clemens, a Lake Worth Democrat who announced his resignation Oct. 27 after disclosures about an extramarital affair with a lobbyist. The District 31 seat remained vacant throughout this year’s regular legislative session, which started in January and ended March 11.

With Berman’s victory, the 40-member Senate is left with one vacant seat. The District 16 seat in Pinellas and Pasco counties became open after former Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, announced his resignation in December following a sexual-harassment investigation. The seat will be filled in the November general election.

Berman, a lawyer, was elected to the House in 2010 and resigned effective Monday because of the Senate election. During the past two years, she was a top lieutenant to House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, D-Tampa.

Berman dominated fundraising in the Senate race, bringing in nearly $300,000 and loaning $100,000 to her campaign and receiving contributions from a broad range of interests in Tallahassee. Donnally, running in a Democratic stronghold, raised slightly less than $26,000.

Tuesday’s election was part of an unusual series of eight special elections for legislative seats. Democrats have won the only two Senate races, with Berman joining Miami Democrat Annette Taddeo, who won a Miami-Dade County seat in September.

Republicans have won three special elections for House seats, while Democrats have won one.

On May 1, special elections will be held in House District 39, which is made up of parts of Polk and Osceola counties, and House District 114 in Miami-Dade County.

Republican Josie Tomkow and Democrat Ricky Shirah are running in District 39, which was vacated by former Rep. Neil Combee, R-Auburndale. Democrat Javier Fernandez, Republican Andrew Vargas and unaffiliated candidate Liz de las Cuevas are running in District 114, which was vacated by former Rep. Daisy Baez, D-Coral Gables.

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