Appeals court dismisses state attorney write-in challenge

Qualified 'sham candidate' will keep Republcian primary closed

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The 1st District Court of Appeals on Friday agreed with a Duval County judge's dismissal of a challenge to a write-in candidate running for state attorney in the 4th Judicial Circuit -- Clay, Duval and Nassau counties. 

Incumbent Angela Corey has two opposition from two former employees, Wesley White and Melissa Nelson. No Democrats qualified in the race, so the August primary would have been open to all voters. Then Kenny Leigh, who acknowledges he is a supporter of Corey, filed as a write-in with the help of Corey's campaign manager at the time.

A lawsuit filed on behalf of voters claimed Leigh's candidacy was "a sham," and he was only running to force the Aug. 30 primary to be limited to Republican voters -- a move that leaves hundreds of thousands of Democratic and Independent voters unable to vote.

Earlier this month, Judge Richard Townsend dismissed the lawsuit claiming Florida law gives no provision under the law to remove a candidate who has qualified to run for office, but added that the court did not find that the complaint was frivolous.

In affirming Townsend's opinion, the appeals court wrote:

“Appellants seek review of an order dismissing their complaint with prejudice for failure to state a cause of action. We expedited review at Appellants’ request. Appellants’ complaint raised two counts, one seeking a declaratory judgment that appellate Leigh’s write-in candidacy is a “sham” and therefore is not “opposition” within the meaning of Article VI, section 5(b) of the Florida Constitution, and the other a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. ... We affirm the dismissal of the second count without comment.”

COURT DOCUMENT: Order granting defendant's motion to dismiss

Leigh, an attorney himself, has said his candidacy was perfectly legal and told the court the lawsuit had no merit.

Corey has also called Leigh's candidacy legal, saying if any non-Republican wants to vote in the race, they simply have to switch their party affiliation.

News4Jax checked with the three elections offices in the judicial circuit and found that 1,543 voters have re-registered as Republicans in the first three weeks of June. People have until Aug 1. to register to vote or change their affiliation.

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