In 2016, James Christian Bailey, a student support specialist at St. Petersburg College, didn’t have to pay a filing fee to run as a write-in candidate in Florida House District 54.
His name didn’t appear on ballots in Indian River and part of St. Lucie counties. His candidacy, though, turned a primary open to all voters into a Republican-only primary disenfranchising tens of thousands of Democrats and independents, about 53 percent of voters.
The strategy appeared to have been orchestrated by a political consultant with ties to Bailey and one of four losing candidates in a race ultimately won by state Rep. Erin Grall.
Since a voter referendum in 1998, all Florida voters have been allowed to cast ballots in a primary race when candidates have no opposition outside their party. A write-in candidate closes the primary to independents and voters of other parties. Yet their names don’t appear on ballots, and one has never won a legislative election in Florida.