A Leon Circuit Judge has disqualified Republican Jerry Torres from the ballot in Florida’s 14th Congressional District. But Torres says he will appeal the ruling.
Judge John Cooper ruled in favor of the Florida Democratic Party and others who sued and argued Torres should be disqualified for having qualification papers notarized when he wasn’t present.
“While today’s decision is disappointing, it is not the final say,” Torres said. “I am fully qualified to be on the ballot and am proving my commitment to voters on the campaign trail every day.”
Torres, founder and former CEO of Torres Advanced Enterprise Solutions, had committed to spending as much as $15 million in hopes of unseating longtime Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor.
In addition to Democrats, other Republican candidates in the race have followed the case and cooed at the verdict.
James Judge, the other well-resourced Republican in the race, has repeatedly called on Torres to resign amid allegations. He praised the verdict.
“Regarding the case of my former opponent who was thrown off the ballot today, I believe the court ruled fairly, and I fully respect Judge Cooper’s ruling,” Judge said.
“It is time to band together as Americans. This November, I look forward to taking down Kathy Castor and the rest of the Democrat politicians who have caused sky-high fuel prices, runaway inflation, defunded our police, supported criminals, all while working tirelessly to brainwash our children and strip us of our Second Amendment rights. God bless our great nation!”
Notably, Judge was briefly tossed from the ballot for another issue, signing the wrong partisan candidate oath before qualifying, but was found in substantial compliance with the law before ballots were printed out.
Torres’ attorney, Mike Beltran — who serves in the Legislature — had argued Torres similarly followed the law in spirit and should not be expelled from the race for a clerical error. He convinced the First District Court of Appeal briefly to put the trial on hold, but appellate judges allowed the trial to move forward this week.
Still, his argument follows a possible path for appeal. Beltran said the campaign has hired a top appellate lawyer.
Vote-by-mail ballots have already been sent to voters, and many have been returned. But any votes for Torres, as things stand now, will not count.
To Torres, it’s hurtful not just to his prospects but to voters to cancel votes already cast for him.
“The court should not disenfranchise the many voters who have already cast their early ballots for me. Those voters have the right to have their votes count,” he said.
He also said he will continue to campaign for votes in the district. The GOP Primary is scheduled for Aug. 23.
“I anticipate victory in court, and my campaign is moving full speed ahead. I look forward to knocking doors tomorrow with volunteers,” Torres said.
The names of Torres, Judge, and Sam Nashagh, another Republican to qualify, all will still appear on ballots already sent out.
The lawsuit was brought by the Florida Democratic Party, former Democratic state Rep. Sean Shaw and Republican lawyer Thomas Hodges, who works at the same law firm as Castor’s husband, Bill Lewis.
Of note, CD 14 as drawn on Florida’s new congressional map leans heavily Democratic. About 58.8% of voters there voted for Democrat Joe Biden in the last Presidential Election, compared to 39.72% who voted for Republican Donald Trump.