Florida Republican wins state House seat after opponent booted off of ballot

Adam Anderson is now unopposed for the House District 57 seat.
Adam Anderson of Palm Harbor will secure the House District 57 seat in north Pinellas after his only opponent was disqualified from the ballot on Sunday.
Adam Anderson of Palm Harbor will secure the House District 57 seat in north Pinellas after his only opponent was disqualified from the ballot on Sunday. [ Adam Anderson ]
Published July 18, 2022|Updated July 18, 2022

A Florida House race was officially decided Sunday after a Pinellas judge ruled one of the two candidates on the ballot ineligible to run.

Republican Adam Anderson, 39, of Palm Harbor, will represent House District 57 in north Pinellas County. His opponent, Austin Brownfield, 41, of Safety Harbor, was taken off the ballot by the county elections supervisor because he has not been a registered Republican for long enough to participate in a GOP primary.

According to a state law passed in 2021, candidates in major party primaries have to have been registered with the party they hope to represent for 365 days before the qualifying period of the election. A lawsuit brought by Ron Ogden, a Pinellas County Republican voter, alleged that Brownfield changed his registration from no party to Republican on March 28, 2022, in violation of that law.

Brownfield did not dispute the fact of his party registration change. He argued that he should be allowed to stay on the ballot because he had been a Republican for a total of 365 days before the qualifying period, which began June 13.

Pinellas Circuit Judge Keith Meyer rejected that argument.

“To interpret the statute as allowing Brownfield to add up non-consecutive days from any time in the past would ... result in absurd interpretation that renders the statute ineffective,” Meyer’s judgment read.

In an interview Monday, Brownfield said he hadn’t decided whether to appeal the decision. He urged the people of Florida who feel “disenfranchised” to “have grace” and “to walk in faith.”

On his campaign website, Brownfield had written that he pledged to serve one term if “magically” elected.

He also described his own disillusionment with the Republican Party: “I only identify as a Republican as it pertains to their penchant to espouse a Pro Life stance, fiscal conservatism, and their apparent professed belief in God and a sound moral life. ... Election cycle after election cycle, I don’t see this from Republicans.”

Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections spokesperson Dustin Chase wrote in a text message that the supervisor’s office does not discuss pending litigation.

Anderson did not immediately respond to a call and a text requesting comment. He’s a financial planner by trade and the cousin of Chris Sprowls — the current speaker of the Florida House who is term-limited — according to a 2019 Facebook post from Sprowls.

Related: Adam Anderson stakes claim in Pinellas House district Sprowls will leave

House District 57, which includes parts of north Pinellas, including Palm Harbor and Safety Harbor, is similar to the old House District 65, which Sprowls represented for years in the Florida Legislature. Although it was redrawn slightly by the Legislature during this year’s decennial redistricting and given a different number, the district remains a Republican stronghold.

Former President Donald Trump carried the district by 11 points in 2020. Democrats did not field a candidate this year.

In a candidate questionnaire sent to the Tampa Bay Times editorial board, Anderson said his legislative priorities include increasing economic opportunity for Floridians, fighting rising prices and investing in the environment and water quality.

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Even if Brownfield had qualified, he would have been a substantial underdog against Anderson, who has raised nearly $180,000 in his campaign account alone, according to state filings. Brownfield had raised about $2,200, according to those filings.

Correction: Pinellas Circuit Judge Keith Meyer ruled Austin Brownfield ineligible to run. An earlier version of this story gave incorrect information on who made the decision.