Last Democratic House hopeful denied chance to qualify for ballot

Document with denied stamp put on the wooden table,
Anita Huffman had filed against Brad Drake, but a document error disqualified her.

Florida courts denied a candidate from trying to qualify in the only House district with no Democrat running.

Anita Huffman, a Freeport Democrat, previously filed to run in House District 5 against Rep. Brad Drake, but she did not qualify based on a problem with her paperwork. She was part of a progressive effort to run Democrats in every open House and Senate seat in Florida this year.

Division of Elections officials rejected her qualification documents based on a notary that was signed instead of stamped. Attorneys for Huffman argued state officials normally allow the correction of minor errors, and thus it should be considered a mistake by the state not the candidate.

But Circuit Court Judge Angela Dempsey ruled on Tuesday state officials applied the law consistent with statute. No corrections are allowed to be made to documents after noon on the qualification date.

“While we are deeply disappointed by the Judge Dempsey ruling we remain very proud and confident of the group of outstanding candidates running under the Democratic Party banner,” said Robert Ross, an attorney for Huffman and a part of the Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida.

The talent, enthusiasm and commitment of our candidates are a testament to their dedication to fight for and protect the quality of life for the residents of Florida.”

Huffman would have needed to win the case now to have any hope of appearing on the ballot, closing any potential path for appealing the decision.

Behind the scenes, and occasionally out in the open, there has been tension between Democratic establishment figures who want resources focused on flippable districts and those who want to field candidates everywhere. But caucus officials said they felt supported by the state party in the legal fight to get Huffman on the ballot.

“This legal challenge demonstrates the serious commitment by the DEFC to the election” added Dr. Janelle Christensen, president of the Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida. “We are even more energized knowing we are fielding an exceptional statewide team to challenge a government with ill-conceived policies for the futures of our citizens.”

This district certainly falls into the category of safe Republican seats. As of July 20, the district was home to 66,795 registered Republicans and 31,667 Democrats.

This makes Drake, a Eucheeanna Republican, the only member of the Republican caucus to have technically won his election this year. He was first elected in 2014, making this his final election before term limits force his retirement.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]


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