James Judge wins GOP fight over who should challenge Kathy Castor

The Democratic incumbent easily secured her party nomination.

The litigious fight to see which Republican faces U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor this fall has been settled.

James Judge won the Republican nomination in Florida’s 14th Congressional District, defeating Jerry Torres and Sam Nashagh.

Unofficial final results showed Judge winning 20,455 votes, or 53.14% of all votes counted, compared to Torres’ 11,389 and Nashagh’s 6,649.

Meanwhile, Castor formally advanced to the General Election after defeating Christopher Bradley in the Democratic Primary for CD 14. Castor took 90.35% of votes in her race, with 62,498 votes to Bradley’s 6,674.

Castor moves forward favored to win re-election. A new congressional map signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, while criticized for shifting multiple Democratic-leaning districts into Republican-favored jurisdictions, resulted in CD 14 becoming somewhat of a Democratic sink. Under the new CD 14 lines, which span downtown Tampa and St. Petersburg, about 58.8% of voters favored Democrat Joe Biden in the 2020 Presidential Election compared to 39.72% who voted for Republican Donald Trump.

Still, the fight to win the Republican nomination ended up in high-profile court battles over who should even appear on the Republican Primary ballot turned the race for who to nominate in Florida’s 14th Congressional District into one of the hottest in town.

Around $600,000 has already been spent in combined disbursements by Republicans Judge, Nashagh and Torres — much of that in court. Two of the three Republicans in the race have been kicked off the ballot. Each was later restored and just hoping voters know that as they fill out ballots for the Aug. 23 GOP Primary.

First off, shortly after qualification week, the Division of Elections disqualified Judge for signing the wrong partisan candidate oath. Judge blamed a staff error at the state agency for the mix-up, and argued regardless that Florida law only required an oath to be signed. He sued and had his candidacy restored just in time for his name to be printed on vote-by-mail ballots.

But then Torres faced trouble. The Florida Democratic Party, along with individual plaintiffs Thomas Hodges and Sean Shawsued over the revelation that Torres’ final qualifying forms had been notarized while he was out of the country. Of note, Shaw is a former state Representative and the 2018 Democratic nominee for Attorney General, and Hodges is a Republican lawyer who works at the same law firm as Castor’s husband, Bill Lewis.

The Democratic lawsuit, with Judge’s moral support, led to a judge booting Torres from the race, even though his name still appeared on the ballot. The candidate appealed, and just days before the Primary election, won his case before the First District Court of Appeal.

Torres continued to campaign the whole time his case was appealed, spending $414,028 through Aug. 3. Comparatively, Judge dumped $148,623 into the race by the same point.

Nashagh quietly spent just $17,531 on the race, most of that via the $10,440 filing fee with the state of Florida. But he happens to be the only Republican in the race to have remained a candidate the entire Primary season.

Judge established himself early as an endorsement leader, with the backing of Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard and former U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, as well as some right-wing national figures like Roger Stone and U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona. He’s pulled in almost $125,000 in contributions on top of a $25,000 candidate loan.

Torres remained a fundraising leader, pulling in almost $260,000 in donations on top of more than $200,000 in candidate loans. The founder of global consulting firm Torres Advanced Enterprise Solutions, which he has since sold, has testified before Congress on defense contracts and worked with embassies around the globe. He’s also pledged to largely self-finance a General Election campaign against Castor.

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].

One comment

  • Jerry Fardella

    August 24, 2022 at 2:17 pm

    I did not vote for the winner but will accept the outcome of the vote. All loyal Republican/Conservatives/ Moderates should stand behind Mr. Judge, as he is far better than Kathy AoC Castor…drive onto November and lets flip CD 15…Thank You, God Bless

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