Miami Beach

Judge denies Miami Beach commissioner's bid to block Florida's resign-to-run law

Kristen Rosen Gonzalez
Kristen Rosen Gonzalez Miami

A Tallahassee judge has rejected a Miami Beach commissioner's request to block a new state law that requires her to resign her elected position in order to run for Congress.

Kristen Rosen Gonzalez filed a lawsuit April 10 arguing that the state could not legally force her to give up her seat on the city commission in order to run for the congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. The Florida Legislature passed a new law last month that requires local and state politicians to resign to run for a federal office with an overlapping term, but Rosen Gonzalez said the law couldn't legally be applied to anyone elected before the bill was signed by Gov. Rick Scott.

Judge Karen Gievers disagreed Thursday and denied Rosen Gonzalez's request for a temporary injunction. Gievers said the state law wasn't being applied retroactively since the period most crucial to the election — the qualifying deadline — is May 4.

"The outcome of the instant case would have been different if the application of the new language were to an election for which the qualifying period had already concluded, as that would have resulted in an improper retroactive application," Gievers wrote.

It was unclear Thursday how Rosen Gonzalez would proceed.

"You’re never a loser until you quit trying," she said in a statement issued by her attorney, Kent Harrison Robbins.

In her ruling, Gievers gave Rosen Gonzalez until Friday to take belated advantage of a portion of the new law that allows candidates forced to resign their seats to do so effective as late as January, when they'd take office in Congress if elected. The resignation deadline under the law passed on April 20, but Gievers said Rosen Gonzalez should be afforded extra time given that her lawsuit was pending when the deadline came and went.

If Rosen Gonzalez does not submit her resignation Friday, she can still qualify to run for Congress but would be forced to give up her city commission seat immediately. Rosen Gonzalez, who is not considered a front-runner, can also continue to pursue her case in court, but has limited time and long odds.

If Rosen Gonzalez withdraws from the Democratic primary, a once-crowded field would be down to five: Mary Barzee Flores, Matt Haggman, Michael Hepburn, David Richardson and Donna Shalala.

Elizabeth Koh of the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee Bureau contributed to this report.

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