2002 FedEx airplane crash good reason to qualify early

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It’s unlikely candidates will need a Lear jet to qualify for office this year.

Still, filing early does avoid the bad luck of unforeseen circumstances.

Qualifying began noon Monday and lasts till noon Friday for an array of offices up for election in November. They include U.S. senator and representative, state senator and representative, county offices and special districts.

In 2002, however, the crash of a FedEx cargo jet filled with qualifying papers and checks left many candidates in a last-minute tizzy.

The crash was on July 26, the last day for qualifying.

No one was killed, but the “captain, first officer and flight engineer were seriously injured, and the airplane was destroyed by impact and resulting fire,” according to a National Transportation Safety Board press release.

The crash even led then-Gov. Jeb Bush to declare “a state of emergency … due to a minor disaster,” his executive order said. He extended the qualifying period to the next day at 5 p.m., but not till several hours after the crash.

Meantime, some candidates were going to extreme lengths to get in under the wire, according to a Sun-Sentinel story:

Rep. Carlos Lacasa, a Miami Republican running for the state Senate, had sent a $43.20 check via FedEx because the state had earlier miscalculated his qualifying fee.

Upon learning of the crash, he hired a Lear jet to get the money to the elections office before the noon deadline.

“It’s the most expensive $43.20 ever,” said Lacasa, whose hands shook as he arrived at the state elections division nine minutes before noon. “But if I hadn’t done it, it would have cost us the election.”

And the Orlando Sentinel reported that the campaign for Mary Barley, a Democratic candidate running for agriculture commissioner, “charter(ed) a twin-engine airplane from the Miami area to get her paperwork to town.”

“Only in Florida,” then-state Sen. Jim King of Jacksonville told the then-St. Petersburg Times.

Neither Lacasa nor Barley won office, by the way.

The crash was later attributed to the crew’s fatigue as the jet “failed to maintain a proper path to the runway,” according to an Associated Press report.

Before joining Florida Politics, journalist and attorney James Rosica was state government reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He attended journalism school in Washington, D.C., working at dailies and weekly papers in Philadelphia after graduation. Rosica joined the Tallahassee Democrat in 1997, later moving to the courts beat, where he reported on the 2000 presidential recount. In 2005, Rosica left journalism to attend law school in Philadelphia, afterwards working part time for a public-interest law firm. Returning to writing, he covered three legislative sessions in Tallahassee for The Associated Press, before joining the Tribune’s re-opened Tallahassee bureau in 2013. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.