Goetz Withdrawal May Lead to Special Election

Lakeland Local reported last night that James Goetz had withdrew his candidacy for the District D Lakeland city commissioner. By doing so, he left current commissioner Edie Yates as the only candidate for the office.

Looking at the City of Lakeland Municipal Code, it appears that will force the city to reopen qualifying for the race. Looking at Section 30-31 of the code, the city must call for a special election no earlier than “not less than 60 days nor more than 90 days after the vacancy in the candidacy has occurred.”

If my calendar is correct than means no earlier than December 13, 2009 and no later than January 12, 2010. A new qualifying period must end 46 days before the election.

Since December 13th is a Sunday, I doubt we’d have an election on that date. If the city chooses December 15th for the election, then qualifying would end October 30th.

If no one qualifies by that date, than Yates would be unopposed.

Sec. 30-31. Vacancy in candidacy.
(a) If the withdrawal, death, or removal from the ballot of a qualified candidate following the end of the qualifying period results in only one candidate remaining for that office, a special election shall be scheduled by the city commission not less than 60 days nor more than 90 days after the vacancy in the candidacy has occurred.
(1) If a special election is called pursuant to subsection (a) of this section, a supplemental qualifying period shall be established beginning on the day the vacancy in the candidacy has occurred and ending at 12:00 noon on the 46th day prior to the date of the special election. Any candidate wishing to qualify during this supplemental qualifying period shall do so pursuant to section 30-28, prior to the end of the supplemental qualifying period.
(2) The remaining candidate for that office shall not be required to requalify for election or pay a second qualifying fee. The remaining candidate shall not be declared an unopposed candidate under F.S. ch. 106 unless no additional candidate qualifies for election during the supplemental qualifying period. The remaining candidate may continue to accept contributions until he is declared unopposed. If he is declared unopposed pursuant to this section, he shall be declared elected and the special election shall be cancelled.
(3) The filing of campaign expense statements, pursuant to F.S. ch. 106, by candidates in a special election called under subsection (a) of this section, including the remaining candidate, shall not be later than such dates as fixed by the city clerk. In fixing such dates, the city clerk shall take into consideration and be governed by the practical time limitations and the dates established for such statements in a regular city election.
(4) If a special election is called pursuant to subsection (a) of this section and other candidates qualify for election during the supplemental qualifying period, supplemental absentee ballots for the special election shall be mailed by the city clerk to any absentee voter who was mailed an absentee ballot for the regular election. If an absentee voter returns the initial ballot he was mailed, his vote for that office for which the special election was called will be null and void, but his votes on all other offices and issues shall be counted.

Update: 9:42 pm – The Ledger now has an article. It looks like the city would like to hold the election December 8th:

The more likely date for what would be deemed a special election is Dec. 8.

Polling places have already been reserved for Dec. 8 in the possible circumstance that there’s a runoff in at least one of the two city races with three candidates. The winner in any city election must get more than 50 percent of the vote.

As I wrote earlier, that wouldn’t fit the code. It’s almost a week early. The answer? Amend the law:

City commissioners will set a date for the election during their regularly scheduled meeting Monday. McCausland and Koos say they’ll both recommend the Dec. 8 date, but that will require commissioners to pass an amendment to the “not less than 60 days” rule.

They’ll also decide when to end the qualifying period for people who live in Yates’s district to file to challenge her.

Qualifying for a city election is scheduled to end 46 days before the election, Koos said. That means if the Dec. 8 date is chosen, qualifying to run against Yates would end Oct. 23.

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