A legal cloud is overshadowing Election Day in the race for Hernando County's key legislative seat.
The co-chairwoman of the Florida Green Party is pursuing legal action against Green Party candidate Sarah Roman, who appears on the ballot in State House District 44.
Jayne King, who lives in Delray Beach, filed court papers in Pasco County in September alleging Roman was "recruited to file as a Green Party candidate for the purpose of diverting votes … solely as a means of manipulating the election process."
Roman, a 22-year-old from Port Richey who lives outside District 44, is one of the so-called Florida Five exposed by the St. Petersburg Times in June.
These mysterious candidates changed party affiliation to the Green Party at the last minute with no knowledge from Green Party officials. They then paid the filing fees to run in five legislative districts across the state.
Green Party and Democratic Party officials called it an "election scam" and suggested Republicans were behind it. In 2000, Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader attracted hundreds of votes observers said likely would have gone to Democrat Al Gore, who lost to Republican George W. Bush in Florida by 537 ballots.
The legal action, first disclosed Saturday by the New Times in Broward-Palm Beach, asks a judge to compel Roman to produce bank records detailing how she paid the $1,915 filing fee and to testify about who asked her to run for office.
"We do not want to have any kind of election fraud," King said in a phone interview. "This is a fraudulent misuse of the Green Party name."
King said she decided to target Roman specifically. "Hers was really the most obvious in terms of her financial situation … and something looking suspicious," she said.
Roman lists her net worth at $5,219, largely a $1,200 car and $1,300 in furniture, according to financial disclosure reports.
She claimed to make $15,000 from her job at a Salvation Army community center in Pasco County and $12,000 as a waiter at TGI Friday's in Clearwater.
She paid her filing fee with a $2,000 personal loan and now appears on the ballot today with Republican incumbent Robert Schenck and Democrat Jason Melton (who is replacing Joseph Puglia).
Green Party officials still have not reached Roman. Her only contact about the campaign came in a phone conversation and e-mail to the Times in June.
In the e-mail, Roman said she was offended at the suggestion she is a Republican Trojan horse. "I have educated myself about what the Green Party represents and feel it is closely aligned with my beliefs," she wrote.
Since then, Roman has not responded to numerous calls for comment but she apparently filled out a Times campaign questionnaire.
Her attorney, Jeff Lucas of New Port Richey, responded to the legal action Oct. 24, denying any improprieties. Lucas did not return calls for comment Monday.
The parties are expected to appear in court Jan. 6.
John Frank can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 754-6114.