JACKSONVILLE – The Florida Supreme Court will not be asked to consider a case related to the legality of an allegedly “sham” write-in candidacy in the 4th Circuit State Attorney’s race after the 1st District Court of Appeal decided to let an appeal be heard by a three-member panel of its own judges rather than expedite the appeal to the state’s high court.
According to a lawsuit filed by four voters in Duval, Nassau and Clay counties in northeast Florida, the now-former campaign manager and a former campaign consultant for incumbent State Attorney Angela Corey filed papers in May to allow Daniel Kenneth “Kenny” Leigh to run as a write-in candidate in the Tuesday, Aug. 30 Florida primary election.
The lawsuit states that the move to add Leigh as a write-in candidate was designed to keep a majority of voters in the district from casting a ballot, thereby eliminating opposition.
If Leigh’s candidacy is allowed, only those registered Republican in Duval, Nassau and Clay counties will be permitted cast a primary ballot in the state attorney race.
Corey is facing challenges from Wes White and Melissa Nelson on the Republican primary ballot. Currently, White said only Republicans will be able to vote for one of the three Republican candidates in the primary.
“Hopefully, the disaffected and disenfranchised will switch parties and vote with an R,” White told the Florida Record.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs argue that “Corey and her allies believed that it would be to Corey’s political advantage to restrict the voters in the primary election to the 319,004 Republicans and thereby bar the 438,896 non-Republicans from being able to vote in the primary.”
The lawsuit was filed against the counties’ supervisors of elections and asks the court to keep the Aug. 30 primary election for state attorney open to voters in all parties. Corey’s former campaign manager, Alexander Pantinakis, and Leigh are also named as defendants in the suit, which also seeks a ruling that Leigh’s candidacy is a sham and asks the court to order reimbursement of the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees.
“For the people of the state of Florida, we are given a rare display of the underbelly of politics, where the fracture lines that divide our community widen and our elected leaders sing a chorus of ‘aw shucks,’” White said.
Florida’s Universal Primary Amendment, enacted in 1998, allows voters from any party to vote when all of the candidates for an office are affiliated with just one party. In that case, the primary essentially is viewed as and serves as the general election, in which members of all parties are free to vote for any candidate they choose.
However, if a candidate from another party declares his or her candidacy, the primary is closed. Closure of the primary limits the vote to members of the candidates’ own party.
“There's still time to switch parties,” White said. The deadline to register to vote in the Aug. 30 primary is Monday, Aug. 1.
On June 6, Circuit Court Judge James Daniel recused himself from the case because Leigh accused him of bias following a conference call related to the lawsuit.