Anna Eskamani, campaigning for the Orange County seat opening up in Florida’s House District 47, has sued Democratic primary opponent Lou Forges, an Ocoee real estate agent.
Eskamani said the suit was filed in Leon County Circuit Civil court Friday morning.
The issue: Forges’ qualifying paperwork was notarized by his wife, a no-no under state notary law.
His entry came as a shock to Orange County Democratic Party leadership, leaving the party scrambling, with little success to talk with Forges, find out who he is, and why he chose to enter a last-week challenge to a candidate the party has strongly backed.
It is known that Forges is working with Corridor Consulting Group, an agency that has worked on the campaigns of Republicans Mike Miller, former state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, Orange County Commissioner Betsy VanderLey, and Orange County Commission candidate Bobby Lance, among others.
“All signs indicate that Lou Forges was recruited by the Republican Party to run against me, creating a fake primary,” Eskamani said in a statement.
“Republicans know they can’t win this seat legitimately, so they’ve resorted to what they know best: Dirty tricks and corrupt tactics,” she said. “I have committed my life’s work to fighting for what is right, and voters can count on me to always fight for them, whether it be in the streets, in the legislature, or in a courthouse.”
Eskamani, a former official with Planned Parenthood, has been a grassroots organizer for years.
“We feel confident that our request for declaratory and injunctive relief will be met. Rules and laws matter, that’s why we have them,” she added. “Though the GOP is great at playing games, they should think twice before trying to play games with our democracy, and with the people of House District 47.”
Eskamani, of Orlando, is aiming for the seat being vacated by Miller, who is running for Congress.
Others who qualified include Republicans Mikaela Nix of Orlando, a lawyer, and businessman Stockton Reeves.
Nix responded to the lawsuit later Friday: “How very ‘establishment’ of Anna Eskamani to sue to kick a fellow Democrat and African-American off the ballot. It looks like her political playbook is the same one that Hillary Clinton used against Bernie Sanders.”
In a statement, Nix said she plans to win “the right way”: By “knocking on doors and winning over voters, not using legal loopholes to deny voters a choice or citizens access to the ballot.”
HD 47 covers north and central Orange County, including much of Winter Park and Orlando.
The address Forges lists on his voter registration is a house in Ocoee, well outside HD 47, which Forges apparently sold 18 months ago. And the address Forges uses for a homestead exemption is in Apopka, also well outside HD 47.
Eskamani is represented by longtime Tallahassee election-law attorney Mark Herron, who works with Democrats.