John Legend hosting big-ticket fundraiser for Monique Worrell
JC 9 Democratic candidate Monique Worrell, in a photo provided by her campaign, and singer John Legend. (Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP, File)

Monique Worrell and John Legend
Worrell continues to tap national big-name progressives.

International superstar John Legend will perform a private, online concert Saturday night as part of a fundraiser for Democrat Monique Worrell‘s run for Orlando State Attorney, with tickets being offered for as high as $10,0o0 apiece.

Worrell’s campaign is distributing tickets for donations ranging from $250 to $1,000. Her independent political committee, Fighting for Justice, is soliciting donations in the range of $1,000 to $10,000 for its batch of tickets.

Legend’s entry into the campaign (he offered his endorsement earlier this month) is just one of many from national figures weighing in with Worrell in the State Attorney’s race for Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit.

The outside support has drawn exasperation from her three Democratic primary opponents seeking election top prosecutor for Orange and Osceola counties. They’ve relied more on traditional means to finance a State Attorney election campaign, like getting local lawyers to back them.

On August 18 Worrell faces former JC 9 Chief Judge Belvin Perry Jr., current JC 9 Chief Assistant State Attorney Deborah Barra, and JC 5 Assistant State Attorney Ryan Williams, a former JC 9 assistant state attorney, for the Democratic nomination. The winner faces independent candidate Jose Torroella in the November general election to see who succeeds outgoing State Attorney Aramis Ayala.

“We’ve seen this move before where outside interests come in and try to influence an election and force their values on the citizens of the 9th Circuit,” Perry said. “I sincerely hope that this community, who was betrayed before, hoodwinked, bamboozled, by these outside interests, don’t fall prey to this a second time,”

They’ve all, including Worrell, been working the streets, phones, and law offices for local money and endorsements. At the same time, Worrell also is ringing up the likes of U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Kamala Harris as well New York billionaire and longtime progressive politics philanthropist George Soros for endorsements and other support for her candidacy.

Worrell’s campaign also has been running an aggressive micro-fundraising effort that has been attracting thousands of small-dollar donations from throughout the country.

There’s nothing small-dollar about Saturday night’s fundraiser. Through ActBlue, a Democratic fundraising portal, Fighting For Justice suggests four levels of donations: $1,000, $2,500, $5,000, and $10,000. The official campaign’s tickets are topping out at $1,000.

Legend also will lead a question-and-answer session with Worrell during the event Saturday.

Legend is a singer, actor, director, producer, and songwriter who is one of only 16 people to have won an Emmy Award, a Grammy Award, an Academy Award, and a Tony Award. He also has long been active in criminal justice reform movements and has endorsed, and performed in fundraisers for, other state attorney and district attorney candidates around the country.

The Legend event is Worrell’s latest campaign move that has the three more traditional Democratic candidates spinning as she keeps tapping big and sometimes controversial progressive Democrats’ support from outside of Orlando.

Earlier, Williams expressed concerns when Soros donated $56,000 worth of research to Fighting for Justice. Williams’ beef was more a “not-again” moment, relating to what Soros did in 2016, when he spent $1.3 million on late, independent campaign advertising in JC 9 attacking a popular incumbent and likely swinging the race. Ayala had been viewed as a long shot challenger until she actually won.

That election also is what Perry was referring to when he charged that voters have been hoodwinked in the 9th Judicial Circuit.

Last week Williams, Perry, and Barra all cried foul when the ACLU of Florida sent out mailers and made phone calls and text contacts to JC 9 voters in what the three said represented a clear and misleading endorsement for Worrell, even though the organization officially does not endorse.

The other candidates’ campaigns also have raised concerns about the sources of Worrell’s campaign money. Worrell has gotten the majority of her money, $67,702 for her campaign and $82,500 for Fighting for Justice, from Floridians, most recently with a $10,000 check from former Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, a Central Floridian though he lives in Seminole County, outside JC 9.

But money also has been pouring in from elsewhere as she appeals to progressive interests nationwide. Through July 17, those micro-donations, many in amounts of $1 to $10, have resulted in Worrell’s campaign attracting 1,063 donations from California, 530 from New York, 249 from Washington state, and 231 from Massachusetts, among other contributions from other states.

Through July 17, Worrell has raised $118,000 in her campaign and another $93,000 (not including the in-kind research donations) for Fighting for Justice, for a total of $211,000 in campaign funds. Perry has raised $159,000 and lent his campaign $9,000 for a total of $168,000 in funds. Barra has raised $94,000 and lent her campaign $50,000 for a total of $144,000. Williams has raised $127,000.

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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