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Tampa Democrat's lawsuit could disqualify
State Rep. Dan Raulerson over filing error.
State Rep. Dan Raulerson should have an easy path to victory. The Tampa Republican lives in a heavily red district and his Democrat opponent has raised less than $5,000. But a state circuit court judge in Tallahassee could upend all of that following a hearing Tuesday afternoon.
Raulerson's opponent, Jose Vazquez Figueroa, filed a lawsuit last month alleging that Raulerson tampered with a notary's signature on an official filing required to run for office. Vazquez says that on Raulerson's personal financial disclosure -- called a Form 6 -- White-Out was used to change the date of the notary's signature.
State law doesn't allow that. It says that if changes have to be made to notarized documents, they must be struck out by drawing a line through them.
It's a technicality, but Vazquez, who does not have a lawyer, argues it makes Raulerson's candidacy illegitimate because all qualifying papers have to be correctly filled out and notarized for a candidate to run. He has asked Circuit Judge Charles Dodson to invalidate Raulerson's candidacy.
If Dodson rules as Vazquez hopes, he could become a state representative by default because there is no other candidate filed in the race for House District 58, which encompasses much of northeastern Hillsborough County, including Plant City and Temple Terrace. State law says that when a candidacy is thrown out by a court, it does not create a vacancy to be filled by the party's executive committee. But some lawyers disagree, saying the Republican Party could replace Raulerson as their nominee in the same way they would if he voluntarily stepped down from the race.
A hearing is at 2 p.m. Tuesday, but it is not certain when Dodson would rule. He's under the gun on time, though, as mail and early voting have both begun in Hillsborough County with the final day of the election on Nov. 8
Dan Raulerson qualifying challenge now in judge’s hands
A Tallahassee judge now will decide whether a lawsuit challenging state Rep. Dan Raulerson‘s re-election over the use of “Wite Out” will go forward. “I’m going to review this and get an order out,” Circuit Judge Charles W. Dodson said Tuesday, after a half-hour hearing. “Good luck.” Raulerson’s attorney had moved to toss out the case, saying it was moot with the Plant City Republican having won in November and been sworn in to represent House District 58. Only the House of Representatives, which is constitutionally the sole judge of its membership, now has jurisdiction over any challenge to Raulerson being seated, lawyer Emmett Mitchell said.
Jose N. Vazquez Figueroa, who is representing himself, is seeking to disqualify Raulerson; Vazquez was his unsuccessful Democratic opponent last year. The suit says Raulerson’s notary had incorrectly used “correction fluid” on his filing paperwork. The state’s notary manual says no correction fluid of any kind is allowed on notarized documents. Vazquez has said Raulerson’s notary “improperly completed” his paperwork by whiting out the date on her notarization of his financial disclosure, changing it from an April to a June date.
He sued Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer; Secretary of State Ken Detzner, the state’s chief elections officer; and Kristi Reid Bronson, records bureau chief for the Division of Elections, faulting all of them for not catching the error and allowing Raulerson to run in the first place.
“I never challenged his constitutional qualifications,” Vazquez told the court. “That’s a big difference … the fact is, Mr. Raulerson never qualified as a candidate. The document is not valid and so it’s a forfeit.” Otherwise, Vazquez added, “we open a big Pandora’s box in the state of Florida where anybody can just ‘white out’ documents.”
Dodson did not say when he would issue an order.
Case dismissed: Dan Raulerson to remain in House
A Tallahassee judge has tossed out a lawsuit over the use of “Wite Out” on state Rep. Dan Raulerson‘s re-election filing paperwork.
Dodson ruled he did not have jurisdiction to decide the matter and threw out the suit “with prejudice,” meaning Vazquez can’t refile it. Raulerson’s lawyer, Emmett Mitchell, had argued in a Tuesday court hearing that the judge couldn’t decide the case because the House of Representatives is the sole judge of its membership under the state constitution. Dodson dismissed the case against Raulerson, a Plant City Republican, as well as the other defendants: Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer; Secretary of State Ken Detzner, the state’s chief elections officer; and Kristi Reid Bronson, records bureau chief for the Division of Elections.
Vazquez had faulted them for allowing Raulerson to run in the first place. He said Raulerson never should have qualified because his notary had incorrectly used “correction fluid” on his filing paperwork. The state’s notary manual says no correction fluid of any kind is allowed on notarized documents. Vazquez had argued the notary “improperly completed” Raulerson’s paperwork by whiting out the date on her notarization of his financial disclosure, changing it from an April to a June date.
In a brief phone interview Wednesday night, Vazquez – who had represented himself – said he will appeal the decision and is considering filing a separate election fraud case against the notary.
Jose Vazquez Figueroa running in HD 58 special election
Perennial candidate Jose Vazquez Figueroa, who lost to incumbent Republican Dan Raulerson last year, filed Monday to run in the special election to fill House District 58, a Hillsborough County seat, campaign records show.
Raulerson is resigning effective Aug. 15, citing ongoing health problems. Gov. Rick Scott signed an executive order setting Oct. 10 for the primary and Dec. 19 for the general election. Republican Lawrence McClure also has filed for the special election. Records show Vazquez also filed to run in 2018 for House District 62, now held by term-limited House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz. Win or lose this year, “I’ll move to (Cruz’s) district” next year, he explained.
His appeal still is pending from the last election. Vazquez sued and lost in circuit court, claiming Raulerson’s 2016 candidacy was invalid because his notary had incorrectly used “correction fluid” on his filing paperwork, which is prohibited by the state’s notary manual.
Vasquez is the only Democrat to appear on the general election ballot since the district was drawn in 2012.