Judge rules Laura Rivero Levey cannot return to HD 113 ballot

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Miami Beach Republican Laura Rivero Levey will not be on the ballot in House District 113, a Leon County judge decided on Friday.

The state dropped Levey from the race after her qualifying check to the Divisions of Elections bounced, and she went court July 9 to get her name back on the ballot. SunTrust Bank, where Levey held her campaign account, sent a letter accepting responsibility for the improperly returned check.

Nevertheless, Leon County Judge Charles Francis refused to extend the qualifying deadline.

In his decision, Francis cited Florida state law: Candidates must pay filing fees before the end of the qualifying period.

Calling it a “harsh decision,” Francis said: “In fact, I don’t think there is anything the candidate could have done differently that would have changed what happened during the week… But I am bound by the precedent that says when the legislature speaks as to a particular item, I am not to guess at what it means.”

With Levey’s exclusion, Democratic Rep. David Richardson becomes the unopposed winner for the district representing parts of Miami Beach, downtown Miami, and Little Havana.

Already declared the winner by the state, Richardson was waiting on the ruling to shut down his campaign accounts.

Levey responded to Francis’ decision by calling for reforms of the Division of Elections.

“What happened was very unfair,” she told Kathleen McGrory of the Miami Herald. “And I will think about appealing.”

Richardson insisted the ruling is consistent with state statutes.

“It’s unfortunate for Ms. Levey,” he said, “because she wanted to be a candidate in the race.”

“But the law is the law.”

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.