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Race for Fla. 13th Heads to House

On Tuesday, Buchanan’s spokeswoman, Sally Tibbets, called on Jennings “to put the best interests of the people ahead of her own political ambitions and do the right thing for the people of Florida’s 13th Congressional district and to concede. And we would also call on the U.S. House of Representatives to put partisan politics aside and seat Vern Buchanan, who has been certified by the state of Florida as the Congressman. That’s what democracy is all about and anything else would totally disrespect the will of the voters of Florida’s 13th Congressional district.”

The eventual winner will replace departing Rep. Katherine Harris (R) — who, ironically, as Florida secretary of state in 2000, was a major player in the disputed presidential election.

But as both sides speculate as to what will happen on Jan. 4, the process for determining the eventual winner after the Jennings’ formal protest is filed with the House also could be controversial.

The House Administration Committee will receive Jennings’ challenge at the tail end of the Republican-controlled 109th Congress and the outgoing majority could immediately begin the investigation or hold hearings on the case.

Traditionally when an election contest is filed, a panel of two majority and one minority committee members is put together to review the case, including reports gathered by both Democratic and Republican committee observers who are sent to districts whenever contests seem likely. That panel makes a recommendation to the full committee on how to proceed, and that recommendation is voted on and, if passed, sent to the floor of the House and treated like any other piece of legislation.

But House Administration spokeswoman Salley Collins said Tuesday that the committee will not make any decisions on how it will proceed with its investigation until Jennings’ paperwork is filed. When asked if the committee would be holding hearings after Congress adjourns, she said it is “not out of the realm of possibility.”

However, as House Administration Democratic Staff Director George Shevlin pointed out, “should she file, no formal action affecting the outcome of the contest could be taken until the next Congress is seated.”

So while the House office lottery pool ended weeks ago, Room 1516 of the Longworth House Office Building — which was set aside for the winner of the Florida contest — is currently vacant, and appears likely to remain that way for a while longer.

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