Democratic candidate for U.S. Congress District FL-14, Larry Byrnes is challenging an unfair and undemocratic ruling that has kept him off the ballot for this August.
The Republican-controlled Florida Division of Elections (which you may remember from its recent appearance in the movie Recount) has determined that Byrnes will be a write-in candidate in August, defying the will of the people and the intent of the law. Laws like the one used to keep Byrnes off the ballot are meant to prevent voter fraud and to help ensure that the will of the people is reflected at election time.
On April 15, 2008, Byrnes received a letter telling him that he had qualified as a candidate in the upcoming election. They didn't tell him that he needed anything further. He later noticed that his name was not appearing on the elections website. He called the division and learned that he had not submitted a required notarized loyalty oath, which was required to be submitted the following day. He sent it by overnight courier and it arrived by the deadline. After the deadline, he was told that he had submitted the wrong loyalty oath. He had inadvertently signed the loyalty oath for a write-in candidate, not a Democrat.
The effect of Divisions decision is that, despite the fact that Byrnes became the first candidate to ever qualify for this seat by petition -- with more than 5400 total signatures. Write-in candidates do not appear on the ballot and the top write-in candidate in the state in congressional races in 2006 got 23 votes. Effectively, this decision would kill the candidacy, one that has a legitimate shot at winning.
In 2006, Robert Neeld got 35.6% in this District. According to insiders, Neeld's campaign had little grassroots support and didn't campaign significantly. Byrnes has huge grassroots support and he is campaigning tirelessly. He should easily top 40% and could get to 45%. Normally, that might not mean much. But this year isn't the regular year.
First off, it's a Democratic year, with a Democratic landslide expected and the likelihood of a lot of Democratic pick-ups around the nation. The incumbent in the seat, Republican Connie Mack is a do-nothing Bush supporter with a record as one of the least-effective members of Congress who is more notable for marrying Rep. Mary Bono than for any legislative accomplishments. And, this is the key, a strong right-wing candidate is challenging him as an independent. Burt Saunders, a popular state senator who will easily split the conservative vote with Mack. In this race, Byrnes can win if he gets 40% of the vote. That's why the Republicans are scared of him and that's why they're keeping him off the ballot. If Byrnes wins, he gets all the advantages of incumbency for the 2010 election and that's the last thing Republicans want. Byrnes is a good progressive Democrat and exactly the kind of person we need in Congress, particularly if he replaces a horrible representative like Mack.
What can you do? Byrnes is challenging the ruling. That won't come cheap. The first hearing is in two days, June 11. Larry needs your help paying the legal fees, particularly if the challenge goes beyond Wednesday. Send a message to the Republicans in Florida that they can't ignore the will of the people like this and send a message to Larry that we've got his back. Go to ActBlue and give what you can. You can also help spread the word about this story, so as many people as possible know about it and join the fight.
You can also learn more:
Read more about the legal challenge
Larry's web site
Byrnes endorsed the Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq
Listen to our Florida Progressive Radio interview with Larry.