Rep. Mike Horner dropped his bid for re-election Monday after his name was connected to a prostitution operation in Orange County.
Horner, a two-term lawmaker who chairs the House’s transportation and economic development budget committee, stepped down following reports linking him to Mark David Risner, 54, who was arrested Aug. 16 for racketeering and five prostitution-related charges.
Horner hasn’t been charged with any crime.
“I致e had no greater honor than serving the people of Florida, but I have no greater priority than doing the right thing for my family,” Horner said. “I pray to have the chance to earn back their trust and respect during the remainder of my life.”
Horner’s statement came after reports broke linking someone with his name to Risner. Bernie Presha, a spokesman for Lawson Lamar, the state attorney for Orange and Osceola counties, said the name Mike Horner “was listed on a list of possible clients” found after Risner’s arrest.
Presha said authorities weren’t even certain that the document was a client list, and there are no plans to investigate Horner or any of the other people on the list.
But while denying some of the details of the earliest reports about his involvement in the scandal, Horner essentially confirmed Monday that he had erred.
“I deeply regret decisions I made that are causing my family unjustifiable pain and embarrassment,” he said. “While current press accounts from this morning are erroneous, my family still deserves better from me, as do all my friends, supporters and constituents.”
Incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, issued a statement Monday supporting Horner’s decision to drop out.
“I believe he made the right decision,” Weatherford said. “It is in the best interest of our state and his family. As elected officials, we are held to a high standard and no member of the Florida House is above that standard.”
Horner’s name will still appear on the ballot, though the Republican parties in Osceola and Polk counties will have five days to name a replacement who will receive any votes cast for Horner. The Democratic nominee for the seat, Frostproof businesswoman Eileen Game, shied away from commenting on Horner’s decision.
“My prayers go out to Mike and his family as they address this personal matter,” she said in a brief email to the News Service of Florida.
Horner was seen as likely to win re-election in the district, which includes St. Cloud and largely rural portions of Osceola and Polk counties. While Democrats have a nearly five-point edge in voter registration in the district, Republican Gov. Rick Scott carried it by nearly 10 points in 2010. U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona won by 0.5 points in 2008, when he was the Republican nominee for president.
Even if Game were to win the district, the GOP is heavily favored to retain control of the House in the November elections.