Anika Omphroy elected to FL House by default after incumbent fails to qualify

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Anika Omphroy
Florida Democrat Anika Omphroy, Image: YouTube

Sometimes the most important part of winning is just showing up. That is certainly the case for political newcomer Anika Omphroy, who has won the Florida State House District 95 race against incumbent Barrington A. Russell without a single vote being cast.

For reasons that are still unclear, Russell failed to qualify for the race and with no Republican, Libertarian, or Independent running, Omphroy now wins the Democratic primary and general election by default.

Anika Omphroy: “One Mint Tea Majesty and a House seat to go, please”

Omphroy got the news of her instant election victory while waiting for a Mint Tea Majesty at a Starbucks. According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, she screamed down the phone when she heard the news.

“I’m super excited to be this position right now,” she told the Sun-Sentenel, “but I keep thinking the system must have messed up. There must be a glitch.”

The only glitches appear to have been in the campaign of Omphroy’s Democratic rival, incumbent Barrington Russell. It is not entirely clear why he failed to qualify, but according to the Sun-Sentinel he filed some paperwork too early to count, and may have failed to refile at the appropriate time.

Whatever the reason, Anika Omphroy is clearly happy, and with good reason. On her campaign Facebook page she wrote:

On the top of my ‘I Will’ list for 2018, I wrote:

“In 2018 I will be elected State Representative of District 95.” On Friday, GOD made it happen.

To my family, friends, and supporters; I can’t thank you enough for believing in me. To the people of District 95; I pledge to be a dedicated servant, voice, and advocate. #grateful #District95

Why is engagement in District 95 so low?

Russell’s failure to qualify is definitely odd, but there were already several things about the District 95 race that would appear odd to an outsider.

Most noticeably is the lack of online engagement. Russell was elected to the House in 2016, but so far only has 28 likes on his campaign Facebook page. You cannot blame the people of Broward County for not being attracted to the page, though. Russell has not updated it since August 2016 – three months before he won his election.

Anika Omphroy has only 83 Twitter followers, and, most surprisingly, a private account. Her Instagram account is also private. There is nothing wrong with privacy per se, and it is possible the District 95 race is more about door-to-door “retail” politics than memes. But Ophroy will struggle to be a “dedicated servant, voice, and advocate” for her constituents in far-away Tallahassee if she does not make it easier for them to communicate with her.

The District 95 race stands in stark contrast to the estimated one million dollars spent in a three-way special election race for District 72 in February. The winner of that race, Democrat Margaret Good, barely served for two months before the House session (and her term) was over. Still pulling in endorsements and contributions from all over the country, Good has for good reason never left campaign mode. She is in constant online dialogue with her constituents.

The lack of competition is hardly Anika Omphroy’s fault, however, and the voters of District 95 maybe should feel grateful that at least someone wants to represent them. It would be interesting to learn what else was on her “I Will” list.

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