Monique Worrell jumps into JC9 state attorney race with strong start
Monique Worrell has a new unit to help lighten the load.

Monique Worrell
Monique Worrell makes splash into a contest that already has three big names.

Justice reform advocate Monique Worrell has entered the Orlando State Attorney’s race with a bang, introducing herself into a well-established field with a mic-drop-worthy first two weeks of fundraising.

Worrrell, a Democrat from Winter Garden, picked up $21,549 from donors and added another $3,451 from her own pocket to seed a campaign for State Attorney that is opening in Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit, covering Orange and Osceola counties.

She joins a contest that for eight months was a one-on-one brawl between two well-established candidates: incumbent State Attorney Aramis Ayala’s Chief Assistant State Attorney Deb Barra, and highly-backed outside candidate Ryan Williams, a former Ayala assistant who had switched from JC9 to Florida’s 5th Judicial Circuit in 2017, in protest of Ayala’s policies.

Then, in February retired JC9 Chief Judge Belvin Perry entered the contest, turning it into what everyone expected would be a three-person rumble.

Yet in the last two weeks of March, Worrell raised more money than Barra, Williams and Perry raised combined in the entire month.

Barra raised almost nothing in March, and Perry posted his second-consecutive surprisingly-lean month of fundraising.

In March, Williams raised $12,123, giving him $121,030 collected in 14 months on the trail, and about $71,000 in the bank. Barra drew only $250 in March, giving her $79,380 raised. Barra ended the month with about $97,000 in the bank, thanks in part to a $50,000 loan she made to her campaign last summer. Perry raised just $3,200 in March, after raising only $3,000 and lending his campaign $5,000 in February. Perry entered April with just under $11,000 in the bank.

Barra, Williams, Perry, and Worrell all are Democrats. The winner of the August Democratic primary is expected to win easy election in November in the Democratic-rich 9th Judicial Circuit. A Republican, Kevin Morenki of Orlando, also is running, but he hasn’t put together much of a campaign and has raised no money, though his March report was not yet available Friday.

Worrell also is a former assistant state attorney under Ayala; she served as director of the conviction integrity unit there for more than a year, until she left that post last July. She also is a former public defender, defense attorney and law professor.

Worrell is now the chief legal officer for the national criminal justice reform organization the REFORM Alliance, a New York based group founded by hip-hop artist and songwriter Meek Mill.

In the last two weeks in March Worrell banked a dozen maximum-amount $1,000 checks, and 33 contributions overall, most of them local to the JC9 district. She entered April with more than $24,000 in the bank.

“A longtime advocate for criminal justice reform, Worrell has dedicated her life and career to bringing more equity and fairness to the criminal justice system,” a news release described.

In that release and in an introductory video on her campaign website, she emphasizes a criminal justice reform message that sounds much like the one Ayala advocated when she won an upset victory in 2016 to become Florida’s first-ever African American State Attorney. Ayala, however, has both invited and battled controversy and garnered harsh political opposition, and last spring she announced she would not seek a second term.

“Our criminal justice system is fundamentally flawed, working on behalf of the rich and powerful, and against everyone else,” Worrell says in her campaign video. “As a country, we incarcerate people at the highest rate in the world. And as the state of Florida, we incarcerate our citizens at a rate higher rate than the national average, failing to keep us safer.

“I know that the only way to change the system is to change the culture of prosecution. We cannot continue to do the same thing and expect a different result,” she concluded.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected].


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