Would-Be State House Candidate Gets Day in Court

Aug 20, 2014

Credit Courtesy Larry Aguilar

A man fighting to get his name on the ballot in a Southwest Florida state house race is taking his case to court Thursday.  Larry Aguilar, D-Lehigh Acres, has been fighting to get his name on the ballot in the race for State House District 79.  Officials with the state Division of Elections say his paperwork wasn’t delivered in time to meet the qualifying deadline, but the would-be candidate says that’s not true. 

Aguilar is taking his case before Judge George Reynolds of the 2nd Circuit Court of Leon County.  Aguilar had been campaigning for more than a year to represent Florida’s State House District 79. The district includes portions of eastern Lee County. 

His campaign was brought to a halt when state election officials said his paperwork didn’t reach them in time for the June 20th qualifying deadline.  U.S. postal service tracking data indicates his paperwork was available for pick-up the day before the deadline.   In the days following news of his disqualification, Aguilar said he spoke with Division of Elections mail clerk David Embleton hoping to sort out the confusion. 

“What stands out about my conversation with David was that he mentioned he’d never picked up mail that day,” said Aguilar.  “I thought, ‘we’ll that’s a bit unusual.  Today is the qualifying date.’  For the whole year, that’s the most important day.  And he also mentioned that no one had advised him that there was anything extraordinary happening that day.  So it kind of raised a flag.”

Aguilar said the ‘smoking gun’ in his case is a letter from the Florida Bureau of Election Records Chief Kristi Reid Bronson indicating that Aguilar’s $1,781.82 qualifying check had been received in her office the day before the qualifying deadline.

Lee County Supervisor of Elections Sharron Harrington said about 50% of mail in ballots have already been returned and that regardless of Judge Reynolds’ ruling, next week’s primary election between Republicans Matt Miller and incumbent Matt Caldwell will remain open.  If the court rules in Aguilar’s favor, then whoever wins that primary will face Aguilar in the November general election.