Is another candidate, Austin Brownfield, doomed for switching parties too close to qualifying?

Austin Brownfield ART
The House candidate switched his party to Republican from NPA in March.

Voter files indicate House candidate Austin Brownfield, a Safety Harbor Republican, switched political parties in March. That would make him ineligible to run in a Republican primary against Adam Anderson in House District 57.

That’s a problem because a new Florida law requires candidates to be registered members of their chosen political party at least 365 days before the beginning of the qualifying period.

Brownfield told Florida Politics he feels led astray by the Florida Division of Elections and frustrated by a law that apparently left no window for him to run this year.

“All I wanted to ever do was represent the people and serve this country,” he said.

The revelation on Brownfield’s registration comes days after candidate Ashley Guy, a Tallahassee Republican, was forced to end her campaign in House District 9 for similar reasons. Congressional candidate Curtis Calabrese, a Boca Raton-area Democrat, similarly abandoned a campaign in April when Florida Politics reported he’d only recently changed parties.

A voter file from the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections indicates Brownfield on March 20 changed his voter registration to Republican. That came less than a year after he changed to No Party Affiliation on July 27, 2021.

Records indicate he has changed parties a number of times through the years, and was a Republican as recently as 2020, but before that point was a registered Democrat from 2007 until 2020.

Brownfield filed in January for the open District 57 seat, and said he initially wanted to run without party affiliation. But elections officials told him then there could be a problem because he had switched from Republican to No Party Affiliation in his voter registration less than a year from the start of qualifying. He was told the best course would be to switch back to Republican, since he had been a Republican a year before the qualifying period.

Now, it looks as if he can’t qualify that way either after switching parties twice. He believes that shows the new law unfairly helps the establishment leaders of both political parties.

“I’ve been ex-ed out of the ability to do anything,” he said. “Now, you have to know you are going to run a year and a half ahead of time and not do anything with your voter registration in that time.”

He wants to get his qualification check back if he is going to be disqualified from running so that he can pay that back to donors. But he’s also still waiting at this point to see if his opponent challenges his candidacy and gets him kicked off the ballot in the next couple days.

“Now you will have someone hand-picked by (House Speaker Chris) Sprowls and by the Republican Party and they will just glide into office,” he said.

Without Brownfield in the race, Anderson will be elected without opposition to the House seat.

Brownfield has run on a platform about election integrity.

“We all know the Election System is Broken, but we must do what we can until a ray of light illuminates and cleanses the evil deeds,” reads the front-page message on his campaign website.

His biography on the site also classifies him as more loyal to a conservative ideology than a political party.

“I only identify as a republican as it pertains to their penchant to espouse a Pro Life stance, fiscal conservatism, and their apparent professed belief in God and a sound moral life,” he wrote.

“However, as I’ve watched election cycle after election cycle, I don’t see this from republicans. I honestly don’t see any representation of The People from our supposedly elected representatives. I see self-serving people, eager to cash a taxpayer check and ride on the career politician party bus. Maybe we can change this by having normal people willing to represent their constituents. We need normal people willing to return emails and willing to pick up their phones. Above and beyond all else, we need to take back this magnificent country before it is too late.”

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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