Candidate for Tampa Bay congressional seat shall remain on the ballot

Democrats had challenged whether Republican Jerry Torres submitted proper qualifying papers.
Jerry Torres
Jerry Torres [ Courtesy of Jerry Torres ]
Published Aug. 19, 2022|Updated Aug. 20, 2022

Republican Jerry Torres can remain in the congressional race for Florida’s District 14 seat representing parts of Tampa Bay, an appellate court has ruled.

The Florida Democratic Party had argued that Torres should be removed from the ballot over questions about his qualifying paperwork — specifically whether he was present when his oath of office was notarized. A circuit court initially ruled him ineligible.

But earlier this month, Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee stayed that order until it could reconsider Torres’ challenge of it. On Friday, the appellate court ruled that the Democratic Party and two voters lacked standing to challenge whether he qualified properly, saying that determination rests with Florida’s Department of State, which oversees elections.

Torres, a defense contractor from Lakeland, faces two other Republicans in Tuesday’s primary for rights to take on incumbent Democrat Kathy Castor, who has her own primary race.

“I am pleased that the court upheld the rights of the voters to choose their candidate,” Torres said. “This was nothing but a politically motivated boondoggle brought by desperate Democrats who are afraid to face me in a general election.”

Torres has pledged to spend up to $15 million on the race. One of the other Republicans in the race, James Judge, also was briefly removed from the ballot after a challenge to his filing paperwork, but he, too, was reinstated.

Mark Herron, an attorney for the plaintiffs, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment late Friday.