Advertisement
  1. Florida Politics

Court ruling leaves Tampa Bay area state House election up in the air

Published Oct. 17, 2014

TALLAHASSEE — A Florida appeals court ruled Thursday that a write-in candidate was wrongly disqualified from running for a Tampa Bay state House seat, likely cancelling a primary election for the second time.

Rep. Jamie Grant and fellow Republican Miriam Steinberg were supposed to face off in a primary on Nov. 4 that was open to all voters in House District 64, which includes parts of Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. With only two candidates, the primary — postponed from October over questions involving a write-in candidate — would have settled the question of who represents the district, which includes Carrollwood, Citrus Park, Oldsmar and Safety Harbor.

But a panel of judges at the First District Court of Appeal reversed a lower court ruling that kicked write-in candidate Daniel John Matthews off the ballot.

Grant said he was unsure how the ruling will affect him and his staff because his term technically ends on Election Day. He said he will continue to campaign for re-election in the district and hope the courts provide clarity.

"One of these days we'll be on the ballot in a race that counts," he said.

Leon County Circuit Court Judge Angela Dempsey ruled in July that Matthews did not reside in the district at the time of qualifying, therefore failing to meet the requirements under state law. But Matthews appealed the ruling, saying the Florida Constitution requires legislators to live in the district only at the time of election.

The appeals court agreed and said the Florida law treating write-in candidates differently from others is unconstitutional.

The case was sent back to Leon County Circuit Court, where the issue of a need for any special elections will be decided.

The appeals court also affirmed a lower court's opinion in a similar case involving a write-in candidate for House District 96 in Broward County. A different Leon County circuit judge, George Reynolds, ruled in July that Ronald Bray should remain on the ballot, effectively closing the primary between Broward County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs and former state Rep. Steve Perman to Democrats only.

Jacobs won the primary and faces write-in Bray in the Nov. 4 general election. The First DCA opinion today said Reynolds had ruled correctly to allow Bray as a candidate.

Attorney Michael Steinberg, Miriam Steinberg's husband, said he plans to appeal to the Florida Supreme Court. He also said he will try to change the state Constitution through a ballot initiative to require write-ins to live in the district when they qualify to run for office to "close the write-in loophole," he said.

Grant said he would like the law regarding write-in candidates to be clarified in the upcoming session.

"There needs to be some legislation, I think, to clear this whole thing up," he said.

The Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections is waiting for further direction from the courts before determining how the appellate ruling will affect the scheduled Nov. 4 primary between Grant and Steinberg already printed on mail ballots, a spokeswoman said.

Contact Tia Mitchell at (850) 224-7263 or tmitchell@tampabay.com. Follow @tbtia.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Sen. Travis Hutson presents his Job Growth Grant Fund legislation to the Senate Education Committee on Nov. 12, 2019. The Florida Channel
    The original version would have targeted charter schools only.
  2. Florida Senator Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, was the sponsor of a law that was to go into effect Friday that would have created new requirements for abortion doctors that could have limited the number of clinics. But the U.S. Supreme Court threw out similar Texas restrictions, raising doubt about the fate of Florida's new law. [Scott Keeler | Times]
    The delay, which kicks a vote on the bill into mid-December, could stall what may be one of state lawmakers’ most contentious decisions on a political live wire going into a presidential election...
  3. A flag supporting President Donald Trump flutters near the University of Florida's Century Tower before an Oct. 10 appearance on campus by Donald Trump Jr. and Kimberly Guilfoyle. A controversy over the political nature of the event has led to calls for the impeachment of Student Body President Michael C. Murphy, who helped set it up. Courtesy of Chris Day
    A push to oust Student Body President Michael Murphy comes after an email surfaces, suggesting he worked with the Trump campaign to bring a political speech to campus.
  4. Morton Myers, 40, is an entrepreneur, a lifelong Clearwater resident and now a candidate for mayor who comes from a family of Scientologists. He says he is not a practicing Scientologist and is running to bring change and representation to all residents. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Morton Myers says he’s not an active member. But with family on Scientology’s staff, he says he’s uniquely positioned to find middle ground with the church.
  5. FILE - In this Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018 file photo, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi speaks to reporters outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington, after meeting with President Donald Trump about about responses to school shootings. Bondi is preparing to defend Trump against accusations that he pressured a foreign government to aid his re-election campaign. And she’s stepping down from a lobbying where she represented foreign interests (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE  |  AP
    “People are going to discover all over again what Pam Bondi’s made of,” says the consultant who engineered her foray into politics 10 years ago.
  6. President Donald Trump speaks at New York City's 100th annual Veterans Day parade, Monday, Nov. 11, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig) SETH WENIG  |  AP
    Trump will speak at the Hollywood summit on Saturday, Dec. 7 before traveling to Orlando for the Florida GOP’s Statesman’s Dinner, the Republican Party of Florida’s biggest fundraiser of the year.
  7. President Donald Trump speaks in front of a painting of former President George Washington in the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington on Oct. 27. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) ANDREW HARNIK  |  AP
    Trump pointed to Washington as precedent for an active businessman serving as president.
  8. The Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway was built in Tampa as toll road. Commissioners are divided over an elevated toll road proposed for southern Pasco.
    After frustration about their oversight of three potential new toll roads, the department moved up their timeline for scrutinizing the projects.
  9. Florida Senator Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, was the sponsor of a law that was to go into effect Friday that would have created new requirements for abortion doctors that could have limited the number of clinics. But the U.S. Supreme Court threw out similar Texas restrictions, raising doubt about the fate of Florida's new law. [Scott Keeler | Times]
    The Senate has opposed this bill. That may change in 2020.
  10. Tampa attorney Ed Turanchik Times
    The lawyer and transportation wonk waxes on politics and plans for the future. (Hint: Maybe not what you think. )
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement