Democrats Pin Hopes on New Candidate, Unconventional Process in Florida’s 13th District

Nathan L. Gonzales May 2, 2014 · 12:27 PM EDT

The filing deadline in Florida has passed and Democrats are banking on a potentially attractive candidate, but an even more unconventional process, to take another shot at the 13th District.

Democrats recruited Colonel Ed Jany to run in the seat now being held by Republican Rep. David Jolly after the high profile special election earlier this spring.

But Jany just registered as a Democrat last fall. And because of the “Charlie Crist Rule,” as one party strategist called it, or “Sore Loser Law,” a candidate must be registered with a party a year before filing for office from that same party. Since Jany falls short of that requirement, he must run as a Non-Party Affiliated (NPA) candidate in the general election.

According to the initial release, “Colonel Jany is running as an NPA candidate, with the support of the Democratic Party, as a result of a restrictive and partisan law passed by Florida’s Republican controlled legislature.”

That’s why it was critical that Rev. Manuel Sykes (or any other Democrat) not get into the race, because then there would be an official Democratic nominee that could divide the general election vote with Jany.

It did seem particularly over the top, when the Tampa Bay Times reported that the Pinellas County Democratic chairman left a voicemail for Sykes and called him “persona non grata” if he ran. But now that threat makes a little more sense since Democrats are trying to do more than simply avoid a primary.

But Democrats may not be in the clear quite yet. According to the Federal Qualifying Handbook from the Florida Secretary of State’s office, it does not, at first glance, look difficult for a candidate to run as a write-in candidate. 

DS-DE 27A, Federal Office Loyalty Oath and Oath of Candidate for Write-in Candidates. A write-in candidate is not entitled to have his or her name printed on any ballot; however, a space for the write-in candidate’s name to be written in shall be provided on the general election ballot. A write-in candidate is not required to pay a qualifying fee, election assessment or party assessment, or file petitions.

Write-in candidates have been a hot topic in Florida, due to a provision that allowed the primary to become open when an uncontested candidate didn’t face a general election opponent. This is a different situation but, in 2012, a court appeared to uphold the right of even taken write-in candidates to run in primaries.

According to an Associate Press story from last cycle, “Write-ins must register with the division to become qualified but they don't have to pay filing fees or submit petitions as regular candidates must. Only votes for qualified candidates are counted.”

There is a lot of uncertainty in the race from Jany’s first time candidacy to the ballot craziness to the national environment. For now, we’re maintaining our Rothenberg Political Report rating of the race as Lean Republican. 

Update 2:33pm- According to a March 28 memo from Florida Bureau of Election Records Chief Kristi Reid Bronson, "Qualifying will be held from Noon, April 28, 2014 - Noon, May 2, 2014, for all U.S. House of Representatives candidates, including write-in candidates." So, it appears that Democratic strategists succeeded in keeping the Democratic line clear in the general election.