Friday, February 23, 2018
Politics

Candidate for Fasano's former House seat is forced out after failing to qualify

No-party candidate Richard Sikes was disqualified from running to replace Mike Fasano in the state House after he failed to turn in enough voter signatures or pay the $1,187.88 filing fee by today's filing deadline.

Sikes turned in 152 signatures, according to Pasco elections Supervisor Brian Corley. He needed to turn in 253 valid signatures or remit the filing fee by noon to qualify for the special election for House District 36 in west Pasco.

Sikes' disqualification thinned out what has been a crowded field of candidates.

Four others, including three Republicans, are vying to replace Fasano, who resigned three weeks ago to become Pasco's tax collector. A special primary election for Republican candidates is set for Sept. 17. The general election is Oct. 15.

The remaining candidates — Republicans Bill Gunter, Jeromy Harding and Jim Mathieu; and Democrat Amanda Murphy — all met the filing requirements, though three still have another hurdle to cross.

Gunter, Harding and Murphy must move to the district by the general election to meet the requirement that legislators live in the district they represent.

All three have said they plan to move to District 36, which runs west of Little Road and between the Pinellas and Hernando borders.

Sikes, 36, an Iraq war veteran and Port Richey resident, filed to run Aug. 16, saying he wanted to represent constituents without being tied to a political party. He works for an Iowa-based company that helps disabled people access education and find jobs.

Court records show he filed a petition for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection on March 11, 2010, claiming assets of $8,875 and liabilities of $33,230. The case was closed Dec. 2, 2011.

Records also show that as a 17-year-old in 1994, Sikes was charged with burglary, a felony, but according to the case's docket, adjudication was withheld and details of the case were sealed.

Sikes said the bankruptcy resulted after he developed a brain tumor and got behind on medical bills. He said the burglary charge resulted from being "in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Daniel Dwyer, an attorney for Pasco's elections office, said a "withhold adjudication" ruling is not the same as a guilty verdict.

If found guilty of a felony, Sikes would have been blocked from voting and seeking office until his rights are restored. By withholding adjudication, Sikes is able to vote and run for office.

"The difference is a withhold adjudication is not a judgment of guilt," Dwyer said.

Rich Shopes can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6236.

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