The Florida Democratic Party wants a Republican challenger to U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor kicked off the ballot.
A lawsuit filed against Republican candidate Jerry Torres and elections officials alleges Torres illegally had a Mississippi notary sign off on a candidate oath while the candidate was in Africa.
Torres, a former Green Beret and founder of Torres Advanced Enterprise Solutions, had initially filed as a candidate for the open seat in Florida’s 15th Congressional District, but earlier this month shifted to challenge Castor in Florida’s 14th Congressional District.
But Democrats say the Division of Elections should not have accepted a candidate oath submitted by Torres. The oath came in on June 17, the deadline for candidates to qualify for congressional races. The document was hand-delivered to the Division of Elections, but it was signed and notarized by Allison Alford, who is licensed as a notary in Madison County, Mississippi.
The final document also was the third submitted by the state before one was accepted, but signatures on all three documents appear identical. The lawsuit, filed Friday in Leon County Circuit Court, alleges Torres was actually in Sierra Leone, Africa, at the time, and that a Mississippi notary can only notarize documents in person.
Even assuming Torres signed an original document in person, the complaint asserts it would have been impossible for the candidate to sign the paperwork ultimately accepted by the state.
“It is extraordinarily unlikely that Defendant Torres physically signed the Final Federal Candidate Oath in Mississippi the day before he was even notified that the 8:24 AM Federal Candidate Oath had been rejected, which would have been necessary for the Final Federal Candidate Oath to have been hand-delivered to the Florida Division of Elections the next morning,” the lawsuit states.
A complaint was filed by former Democratic state Rep. Sean Shaw and by Thomas Hodges, a Republican voter in Hillsborough County, as well as the Florida Democratic Party. It names Torres, Secretary of State Cord Byrd, Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer, Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Julie Marcus and the state Division of Elections as defendants, and asks courts to order election officials to decertify Torres’ candidacy.
Just filing the lawsuit signals a surprising level of interest from the state party. Under a new congressional map signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, CD 14 leans heavily Democratic. About 58.8% of voters under the new lines voted for Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 Presidential Election, compared to 39.72% who supported Republican Donald Trump.
Torres faces Sam Nashagh in a GOP Primary in CD 14. If disqualified from the ballot, he would be the second major Republican booted from the race. The Division of Elections on Friday disqualified Republican James Judge for signing a local candidate oath instead of one for federal candidates. Judge has vowed to fight the decision in court.
Castor also faces Christopher Bradley in a Democratic Primary.
Torres’ campaign learned of the suit on Monday from Florida Politics but did not immediately provide comment. This post will be updated with a statement when provided by Torres.