The CEO of the Greater Orlando Urban League and a former Disney executive on Thursday announced his candidacy to challenge Republican Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.
"I'm not a politician. But what we're getting out of politician Jeff Atwater is a go-along to get-along style that is hurting Floridians," said Democrat Allie Braswell, 51, a Marine Corps veteran and first-time candidate. "Under his watch, billions in no-bid contracts have been given away and people with insider connections are getting rich off taxpayer money."
No other Democrat has signaled plans to run for Florida's CFO post next year, and state Democratic Party Chairwoman Allison Tant all-but anointed Braswell as her preferred nominee.
"I am thrilled that Allie Braswell is running for Florida's CFO, because he's exactly the kind of leader we need in Tallahassee. We need a leader who will fight the politicians who are giving taxpayer money to their donors and friends. Floridians deserve a leader who will fight to hold government accountable, and attract new jobs to our state," said Tant.
Florida's CFO is one of the state most powerful yet least understood positions. The CFO oversees the state's finances, collecting revenue, paying bills, auditing state agencies and managing banking and insurance regulation. The CFO serves on Florida's Cabinet along with the agriculture commissioner and attorney general.
As a first-time candidate little known outside the Orlando area, Braswell is a clear underdog against Atwater, a formidable money-raiser who previously served as Florida Senate president and as a banking executive. Atwater and the state GOP have already spent more than $330,000 on campaign staff and activity.
"Mr. Braswell and Democrats want to focus on politics well over a year before Election Day," said Brian Hughes, a spokesman for Atwater. "Jeff Atwater is focused on serving Floridians by working to bring relief to insurance ratepayers and fighting the consumer fraud that steals from seniors and families."
Braswell, a Sanford native and son of a citrus truck driver, spent 13 years in the Marines, including a stint in Iraq during the first Gulf War. He earned a bachelor's degree in information technology from American InterContinental University.
He worked at several corporations following his military service, including seven years at Walt Disney World, where he managed technical services and later managed Disney's diversity efforts. He became president and CEO of the Central Florida Urban League in 2010 and has been a high-profile activist demanding justice after the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin in Sanford.
Adam Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.