POLITICS

Julien ends challenge to House race, considers party switch

 

Democratic state Rep. John Patrick Julien ended his challenge to his primary loss to state Rep. Barbara Watson, and said he was considering leaving the Democratic party.

Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau

Rep. John Patrick Julien ended his effort to prove that voter fraud, ballot-doctoring in nursing homes and a self-described “Queen of Absentee Ballots” caused him to lose an Aug. primary.

Julien, a North Miami Beach Democrat who narrowly lost the House District 107 race to Rep. Barbara Watson, D-Miami Gardens, has spent two months fighting the results in court.

Last week, a Leon County judge threw out the court challenge, and Julien indicated that he would sue the Florida Legislature to block Watson from being seated.

This week, Julien decided to drop his challenge, and said he was considering leaving the Democratic party.

“I have made a decision to drop my challenge before the full House,” Julien wrote to some supporters on Thursday. “First, I do not wish to put speaker designate [Will] Weatherford in a position to start his tenure with this issue. Additionally, even if I were successful in proving fraud took place it would only create a vacancy. I cannot ask the taxpayers to foot the bill for a special election.”

Both Julien and Watson were incumbents drawn into the same district during the once-a-decade process of redistricting. Their race was one of the closest during the Aug. 14 primary, with only 13 votes separating them.

After a manual recount, Julien filed a lawsuit alleging that absentee voter fraud was responsible for his loss. Julien had more votes on Election Day but lost the absentee ballot vote.

The race took a bizarre turn once it landed in court, with allegations that Haitian ballot brokers had collected fraudulent votes from nursing homes and dead people. Two alleged ballot brokers — Carline Paul and Noucelie Josna —were called into court to explain their role in the race. The judge issued a pickup order for police to find Josna, who had not responded to a subpoena and could not be tracked by a private investigator. She later testified via video.

Watson’s campaign paid $5,000 to Josna, whose business card describes her as the “Queen of Absentee Ballots."

Watson’s campaign also paid $1,000 to an entity owned by Paul, who ran radio ads telling Haitian Creole-speaking voters to “consult with Teacher Carline” before casting their absentee ballots, in order to “vote correctly.”

Watson’s attorney said that the allegations of fraud were unfounded.

In the end, a judge threw out the charges of voter fraud, leaving Julien with an option to take his fraud allegations to the Florida Legislature.

Julien said he was considering leaving the Democratic party, a move he admitted would likely end his political career in the heavily-Democratic North Miami-Dade district.

“It’s not as tough as you think,” he said of his upcoming decision. “Being in politics is not the most important thing in my life."

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