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Monday, Nov 24, 2014
Politics

Democrat drops bid to unseat Atwater 4 days after announcing it

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TAMPA ­­— After revelations that he’s filed for personal bankruptcy three times, a candidate backed by the state Democratic Party to run for chief financial officer has withdrawn, ending a campaign that lasted only four days.

“I take full responsibility for my actions, and apologize to my supporters,” said Allie Braswell Jr. of Orlando in a news release today. “The bright spotlight of a statewide campaign has cast the ups and downs of my life into harsh relief, and I now know that this campaign is not the way I was meant to serve my community.”

The Florida Times Union reported over the weekend that Braswell had filed for bankruptcy three times in two states dating back to 1990, mosts recently in 2008.

Braswell initially appeared to be an attractive candidate, although a complete political unknown who would have had to start from scratch in building a support base to challenge CFO Jeff Atwater. He’s a Marine veteran, a former technical services executive at Disney and currently president of the Central Florida Urban League.

The faux pas seems likely to be an embarrassment for the state Democratic Party and its new chairman, Allison Tant of Tallahassee.

State Democrats have made it clear their top priority for the 2014 elections is to defeat Gov. Rick Scott, but Tant had also vowed to recruit serious candidates against the three Republicans holding the for the state’s other three Cabinet seats—Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, Agriculture Commissionere Adam Putnam and Attorney General Pam Bondi. Braswell was the first Democratic Cabinet candidate announced with backing from the party.

Party staffers rolled out the announcement to reporters Thursday, and a news release from the party quoted Tant as saying she was “thrilled that Allie Braswell is running for Florida’s CFO, because he’s exactly the kind of leader we need in Tallahassee.”

Republicans gleefully leaped on the snafu, repeating Tant’s words from the email.

“Allie Braswell had better sense to drop out than Allison Tant did to endorse him,” said state GOP Chairman Lenny Curry in a news release. “To back a candidate in charge of Florida’s finances without vetting that candidate’s handling of his personal finances shows either a high level of incompetence or a new level of desperation for Allison Tant.”

Democratic Party spokesman Josh Karp said the party isn’t responsible for Braswell’s abortive campaign.

“The Florida Democratic Party says something nice when nearly any Democrat, especially one with a record of public service, decides to run for public office,” he said. “We did not recruit Mr. Braswell -- he wanted to run and assembled his own team.”

He said party officials warned Braswell about the difficulty of a statewide campaign and urged him to proceed slowly and lay groundwork.

“Unfortunately he was very eager to launch and it seems he leapt before he looked,” Karp said.

“It’s clear he was unprepared for this kind of statewide campaign, but that doesn’t take away from his accomplishments as a Marine veteran and an executive -- he’s achieved a lot in his life.”

wmarch@tampatrib.com

813-259-7761

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