Republican Jerry Torres has charged in court documents that U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor and her husband instigated a lawsuit that seeks to remove him from the ballot for Tampa’s District 14 congressional race.
But the judge in the case has ruled against Torres’s attempt to take depositions from Castor’s husband Bill Lewis, the congresswoman and her campaign consultant.
And in the court filings, Torres acknowledges he was in Africa at the time three versions of his legally required candidate oath were notarized by Mississippi-based notaries, even though two of them say he was physically present, and that he signed a blank oath form before leaving. The lawsuit says that means the oath isn’t valid.
Torres, a Lakeland national security contractor, has vowed to spend up to $15 million of his own money running against Castor.
His lawyer, Rep. Mike Beltran, R-Lithia, argued in filings that the signatures were valid as “copies of his authentic signature,” and noted that another congressional candidate was allowed to remain on the ballot after signing an incorrect oath form.
The lawsuit plaintiffs are the state Democratic Party, Democrat Sean Shaw of Tampa and Republican Thomas Hodges, a lawyer in the same firm as Lewis.
Torres alleges that Lewis persuaded Hodges to join the lawsuit after showing Hodges the oath documents online, and says in court documents that Hodges acknowledged as much in a deposition.
Torres says Castor wants to “railroad” him off the ballot because she feared running against him.
But plaintiffs’ attorney Mark Herron argues that the only relevant issue is the validity of the oaths.
Tallahassee Circuit Judge John Cooper ruled that instead of being forced to give depositions, Castor, Lewis and Phillips could file affidavits saying they have no knowledge of how the oaths were signed.
Asked about Torres’s accusations, Phillips said only, “They can try to distract and delay, but we’ll just keep monitoring the case.”