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Inquiry on mayor's re-election expands

An investigation into possible ballot fraud in Orlando's mayoral election has expanded to include a state senator and a circuit judge, according to a published report.

The inquiry's expansion was revealed in a letter sent to Gov. Jeb Bush by Chief Assistant State Attorney Bill Vose last week.

The Orlando Sentinel reported Wednesday that Vose told Bush the investigation is "against a variety of individuals, including a sitting circuit judge, formerly endorsed by the state attorney; a mayor; and a state senator."

The Orange-Osceola State Attorney's Office is no longer involved in the case. A spokesman for State Attorney Lawson Lamar said a new "person of interest" has emerged in the investigation who could create the appearance of a conflict of interest for Lamar.

Lamar's office would not identify that person. But at the center of the case is Ezzie Thomas, a political consultant whose clients in recent years include Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, state Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando, and Circuit Judge Alan Apte, a former prosecutor who was first elected in 2002 with Lamar's endorsement.

On Tuesday, Bush transferred Lamar's duties to Brad King, prosecutor for the 5th Circuit, based in Ocala.

Dyer was re-elected in March. Defeated candidates have accused Thomas of filling out multiple absentee ballots on behalf of the black community and tampering with other ballots.

Dyer received 12,417 votes, or just under 51 percent of the total vote. Had he polled under 50 percent, he would have gone into a runoff against runnerup Ken Mulvaney, a businessman and former pub owner.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement's investigation drew national attention after civil rights organizations accused investigators of intimidating elderly black voters. The U.S. Justice Department has opened an inquiry into the FDLE agents' behavior.