Rep. Reggie Fullwod sues state over disqualification

By Steve Patrick, Managing editor of digital content, spatrick@news4jax.com
Kent Justice, Weekend anchor, reporter, kjustice@wjxt.com
Published On: Aug 06 2014 11:57:17 AM EDT
Updated On: Jul 31 2014 11:10:00 PM EDT

VIDEO: Jacksonville Representative Reggie Fullwood believes the State's Division of Election is intentionally holding up the elections process to suppress minority votes.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

State Rep. Reggie Fullwood, whose filing for reelection was disqualified, is suing the Florida secretary of state and Gov. Rick Scott, asking that the Division of Elections' decision be overturned.

No one qualified to run against incumbent state Rep. Reggie Fullwood by the June 30 filing deadline, but after problems were found in his qualifying papers, the office was left with no one running in House District 13.

The state Elections Office said it would be up to the governor's office to set a special election for the seat. The tentative plan calls for a one-day qualifying period, a special primary election to be held December 16, and a special general election on February 17, 2015.

There would be a one-day qualifying period for candidates wishing to run for the District 13 seat.

In announcing the lawsuit on Thursday, Fullwood criticized the slow response from by the secretary of state and governor's offices in dealing with the matter, and to hold a primary nine days before Christmas would suppress the potential voter turnout, holding the General Election in February would leave the district without representation for months, and not scheduling the election at the same time as the November general election would cost taxpayers $225,000.

"I was not vigilant enough with my paperwork, and that’s on me," Fullwood said in a statement. "But the Secretary of State and the Governor’s office are delaying this election, taking away the right of Jacksonville families to have a voice in Tallahassee."

COURT DOCUMENT: Reginald Fullwood vs. Florida Secretary of State

Asked about Fullwood's lawsuit, Brittany Lesser of the secretary of state's office sent this statement:

"The specific qualifying dates and requirements have been in law since 2013, were sent to candidates, and have been posted prominently on the Division of Elections website since January. The Fullwood lawsuit asks the court to deny the voters in District 13 the right to vote by declaring Fullwood the winner without an election. Candidates are given every available opportunity to qualify before the deadline in accordance with the law."

Duval County Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland doesn't qualify candidates for state office, but he would have to conduct the special election in December.
Holland told News4Jax he doesn't agree with Fullwood that a special election for his office would suppresses voter turnout.

Holland noted that if Fullwood had qualified for re-election without a problem, he would have been unopposed for re-election and his name would not have appeared on any ballot.

Holland agreed that the courts now have to sort this out.

"This is a lawsuit that has to get clarification of the statute. He's got every right to try to get that clarification," said Holland.

Fullwood, 39, was elected in 2010 to the district that covers the the heart of Jacksonville, part of northwest Jacksonville and parts of Arlington and San Marco. He was expected to coast into a third term, but will now have at least one formidable opponent: Jacksonville City Council member Johnny Gaffney.

Gaffney, 43, whose term on council expires next summer, had planned to run for the House seat in 2016, but has now filed paperwork intended to run in the special election.

Gaffney (pictured) agreed with Fullwood that the state should try and hold the election in conjunction with the scheduled elections.

"Why would we let two elections go by without an attempt to hold this election?" Gaffney told News4Jax on Thursday. "I would hate for taxpayers to pay another quarter million dollars because of an error."

Gaffney would have to resign from City Council to run for state office, but because the next City Council is within six months of when Gaffney's resignation would take effect, it would not require a special election, Holland said. The first city election is March 24, with the second being May 19.

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