Wednesday, June 01, 2016
Sham Write-in Candidate Challenged In Duval For Closing Universal Primary
Kudos to attorney William Sheppard and former State Senator Anthony Hill, two of my civil rights heroes, and their co-counsel, fellow witnesses and plaintiffs for challenging the sham closing of the supposedly "universal" primary for State's Attorney in Duval County.
Whether such "shill" candidates are legal is a question of both state and federal law. The Fifteenth Amendment and Voting Rights Act both apply.
SO: Fair notice to Sheriff DAVID BERNERD SHOAR f/k/a "HOAR" and any other redneck peckerwood or weasel who thinks its "cute" to disenfranchise African-Americans, Democrats and No Party Affiliation voters. Should the one-party St. Johns County Establishment Disorganization attempt to close the August 30, 2016 universal primary with sham shill candidates, I will file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.
Here's the T-U article on the Duval County lawsuit challenging the closing of the State's Attorney race:
Judge in 'sham candidate' state attorney case may make decision in next few days
By Larry Hannan Tue, May 31, 2016 @ 12:21 pm | updated Tue, May 31, 2016 @ 3:04 pm
A large number of people in Jacksonville, including civil rights leaders, believe Kenny Leigh is a sham candidate who filed as a write-in to help 4th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Angela Corey get re-elected.
Now Circuit Judge James Daniel must decide whether Leigh’s intent in becoming a write-in candidate for state attorney matters under the law.
Tuesday morning Daniel heard motions to dismiss a lawsuit filed against Leigh, best known for running a family law firm that only accepts men as clients, and Corey’s campaign manager, Alexander Pantinakis.
Pantinakis filed Leigh’s candidacy paperwork shortly after Republican Melissa Nelson. By having an opponent in the general election, it closed the primary election to the 440,000 people in Clay, Duval and Nassau counties who are Democrats or have no political party affiliation.
Daniel did not issue a ruling but said he would seek to get one out in the next few days. Elections officials have told Daniel they want the lawsuit dealt with by June 24 so they can start printing ballots.
Corey is running against Nelson and Wesley White, both former employees. All three are Republicans, and the Aug. 30 primary would have been open to all registered voters in Duval, Clay and Nassau counties if Leigh did not file to run as a write-in candidate.
Attorneys Bill Sheppard and Samuel Jacobson filed a lawsuit on behalf of several people who are not Republicans and asked the court to rule that “Leigh’s sham candidacy is not ‘opposition’ “ and the primary should be open to all voters.
Leigh, who represented himself in court Tuesday, argued that his intent didn’t matter and that under the law Daniel had no right to question his motivation. He cited previous rulings by the Florida Supreme Court that denied requests to reopen a primary after a write-in candidate filed.
At one point Daniel asked Leigh if he wanted to win the election. Leigh responded by saying there was no proof he wasn’t running to win and that his motive for filing as a write-in candidate was irrelevant.
Attorney Lindsey Brock, who represents Pantinakis, also told Daniel that going forward with this lawsuit would lead to a “slippery slope” where the legitimacy of most write-in candidates could be challenged.
Brock also said Leigh didn’t have to win the election to be a valid candidate. Daniel said he agreed with that, but expressed concern that Leigh’s actions suggest he actually wants Angela Corey to win.
Leigh, who is a registered Republican, donated money to Corey’s campaign, along with having her campaign manager file his paperwork. Pantinakis has previously said he drove to Tallahassee and filed Leigh’s paperwork in his role as a Republican Party state committeeman, not as Corey’s campaign manager.
Sheppard and Jacobson have argued that Leigh’s candidacy disenfranchised all the registered voters who are not Republicans. They also say the evidence of fraud is high because of Pantinakis’ role in filing the papers and Leigh’s previous history of being a Corey supporter.
Daniel said his ruling would likely be based on whether Leigh was providing meaningful “opposition” to the winner of the Republican primary and seemed to imply that he was trying to figure out if Leigh was planning to run a real campaign for state attorney. The judge said if Leigh has no intention of running a campaign, he struggles to see how that’s meaningful opposition.
Daniel also appeared to reject the suggestion that Leigh’s intent didn’t matter, at one point saying previous Supreme Court rulings never said that judges couldn’t look into the intent of write-in candidates.
Tuesday’s hearing was packed with civil rights supporters. Afterward state Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, said everyone should get a say in who the top prosecutor is in Jacksonville.
“It’s important that everyone gets to weigh in,” Gibson said.
Jacksonville NAACP Chairman Isaiah Rumlin also said the Florida Legislature needs to change the law to keep this from happening again.
Gibson, Rumlin former state Sen. Tony Hill and Neil Henrichsen, chairman of the Duval County Democratic Party Executive Committee, all said they believed Leigh was a “sham” candidate who got into the race to help Corey get re-elected.
In 1998 voters amended the state Constitution to say primaries must be open if the winner of the primary will face no “opposition.” In 2000 then-Secretary of State Katherine Harris wrote an opinion that said write-in candidates can close primaries. This year the Florida Supreme Court ruled that write-ins don’t need to have a legitimate chance to win to count as opposition.
Corey has said she didn’t know anything about her campaign manager filing Leigh’s paperwork until after it happened.
But Corey also said it wasn’t a big deal because anyone who wants to vote in the election can reregister as a Republican until the end of July.
But Hill, who attended Tuesday’s hearing, said that wasn’t realistic.
Democrats have primaries for the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate they want to vote in and will not be able to cast ballots in those races if they reregister as Republicans, Hill said.
Daniel also expressed doubt when Leigh and Brock argued that no one was being disenfranchised because they could all become Republicans by Aug. 1 and vote in the state attorney’s race.
“For many people their political affiliation is key part of who they are,” Daniel said.
Larry Hannan: (904) 359-4470