House District 44 Democratic candidate Paul Chandler, who previously announced his intention to resign from the race, says he is still considering his options.
ORANGE COUNTY – Shortly after releasing a media statement announcing the decision to withdraw his candidacy from the special election race on Tuesday, Aug. 22, House District 44 Democratic candidate Paul Chandler has accused local Democratic leaders of pressuring him to resign.
According to an email written by Chandler, representatives from the Orange County Democrats and Florida Democratic Party have bombarded the candidate with emails, calls and unannounced office and home visits.
Chandler is the sole Democratic candidate in the special election race that seeks to fill a vacant seat caused by the appointment of Eric Eisnaugle to the Fifth District Court of Appeals. Republican Robert “Bobby” Olzsewski won his party’s primary Aug. 15.
Chandler, who also is facing a lawsuit against him that seeks to disqualify him from the race, said his party’s pressure for him to resign is what drove him to send out Tuesday’s press release announcing his intention to resign.
However, Chandler said he’s had a change of mind and is unsure of whether he’ll commit to a resignation and file the required paperwork with the Secretary of State's office.
“Based on the harassment of the Orange County Democrats, Wes Hodge, the chairman, coming to my apartment and to my office unannounced, and the Florida Democrat Party to resign and submit the paperwork ASAP, I am being pressured to resign,” Chandler said. “With the feedback of grassroots supporters who actually believed in our campaign, I am still considering options.”
Hodge, chairman of the Orange County Democrats, did not deny he has made multiple attempts to contact Chandler so they could name a new nominee and have adequate time to prepare them before the election Oct. 10.
However, according to Chandler, Hodge had been hounding him to resign even before he announced his former decision to withdraw.
“For some reason, he’s refusing to send in his paperwork to withdraw from the race even though he issued a public statement that he is not intending to run anymore,” Hodge said. “I guess he thinks he’s holding the party hostage. … It seems pretty juvenile. I’ve made multiple attempts to contact him. I’ve sent emails, text messages, made phone calls, but he won’t reply to me.”
According to state law, the Democratic party has five days to nominate a replacement for Chandler once or if, Chandler decides to officially withdraw. But if a judge rules Chandler never met the qualifications to run per state law, the Democratic party will not be allowed a nomination.
The lawsuit, which Chandler said he is confident he will win, accuses him of not meeting the two-year residency requirement needed to run for state office. According to court documents filed with the Leon County Circuit Court in Tallahassee, Chandler was registered to vote in a Missouri election as recently as November 2016.
Emphasizing the hard work he's invested in this race, the Democratic candidate said he plans to make his ultimate decision on his own terms.
“I have made this race my top priority this year,” Chandler said. “I, along with our dedicated campaign volunteers, have put countless hours of energy and sweat into this campaign. As the only candidate to step forward to run without the recruitment of the Democratic Party, I have the right to officially end my campaign when I end it.”
Contact Gabby Baquero at [email protected]