In the classic tradition of politics in Florida, some big news developed during Happy Hour on Friday.
Fullwood’s withdrawal, said the letter, was “effective immediately,” to “permit the Democratic Party [to] designate a nominee.” It reads:
“The purpose of this correspondence is inform the Department of State, Division of Elections, that I have withdrawn as the Democratic candidate for election to the Florida House of Representatives, District 13, effective immediately.
“This is to permit the Democratic Party to select a nominee to fill the vacancy created by my withdrawal as a candidate. Thank you for your attention to this matter.”
The Democratic Party will have to decide quickly who the candidate will be.
Division of Elections Director Maria Mathews sent Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant a letter late Friday saying a candidate’s letter of designation and qualifying papers must be submitted to the Division of Elections by Oct. 7 at 5 p.m.
Names being floated include Tracie Davis, Duval School Board member Paula Wright, and Rahman Johnson.
Powerful state Sen. Audrey Gibson is close to the first two mentioned; Johnson, meanwhile, would be Fullwood’s pick.
There is, as well, some consternation about who is the best pick. Those who value legislative experience in the Duval’s Democratic Executive Committee back Wright. However, Davis ran a competitive second to Fullwood in the August primary, which burnishes her case for selection by the DEC.
Discussion is robust in the DEC on this matter, with passionate advocates for candidates saying that there needs to be a candidate from the district with legislative experience, which Davis lacks.
Fullwood is in the process of writing a letter to House Speaker Steve Crisafulli resigning from the House.
“While this is a very unfortunate situation, Rep. Fullwood is now obligated by House Rule to resign from his seat. I am hopeful that he will do what is right and do so immediately,” said a statement from Crisafulli to Jacksonville’s WOKV.
Fullwood was indicted in April on 14 federal counts related to wire fraud, alleging he transferred $65,000 of campaign contributions into his personal account.
Ten counts were for wire fraud; four counts, for failure to file federal tax returns.
The plea deal reached Thursday was for one count of wire fraud for $1,500 and one count of failure to file.
Though there may be expectations of lenient sentencing, Judge Marcia Morales Howard told Fullwood that the court would set the sentence and decide how lenient it might be.
Fullwood had attempted a number of creative defenses in the trial.
Some were more successful than others.
Fullwood scored a victory when the judge ruled the Florida Division of Elections could not have been defrauded by his misappropriation of campaign funds.
However, the Jacksonville Democrat’s motion to dismiss was thwarted.
Fullwood contended no contributor’s property interest was compromised by his use of campaign funds for personal expenses, as the contributors got what they paid for — Fullwood in office.
Federal prosecutors produced FBI testimony from multiple contributors saying their sole intention was for campaign donations to be used only for campaign expenses, eviscerating the motion to dismiss.
Ultimately, that testimony undermined Fullwood’s defense, and a plea deal came.
Fullwood will be sentenced Jan. 9; however, the Democratic Party will have to choose a replacement candidate as soon as possible.