Mark Rossi has lost his chance to run for Key West mayor this election, even as a write-in candidate.
Rossi, a former city commissioner who owns a bunch of bars, failed to pay the $225 qualifying fee. A judge ruled a 48-hour window for mistakes didn’t apply to his case.
If voters are thinking about writing in his name on the Aug. 28 ballot and do so, their votes won't count.
Write-in candidates must qualify on time by filling out the required paperwork. The hitch is they don’t have to pay the $1,350 qualifying fee or present petitions in order to run for office.
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“Write-in candidates qualify just like anyone else,” said Joyce Griffin, Monroe County Supervisor of Elections.
Rossi chose to get signatures on petitions rather than plunk down the four figures.
“He paid for his petitions to be verified,” Griffin said. “He paid less than $20.”
Griffin said her office made a small mistake by placing “qualified” by Rossi’s name before the qualifying period ended at noon on June 22.
But Rossi, who said Thursday he was disappointed but won’t challenge the court ruling, blames Griffin’s office, not his campaign treasurer, Barry Gibson, who was reminded by election officials to pay the $225 four days before it was due.
“My campaign relied on this information that I was “qualified” and unfortunately, the supervisor of elections office did not discover the error until after the qualifying period ended,” Rossi said in a statement released by his attorneys.
Rossi said he will wait to decide whether to run in 2020. Key West mayors serve two-year terms.
The issue went to Circuit Judge Tim Koenig because the county attorney chose to file a lawsuit rather than risk the election possibly being overturned later by the courts.
Koenig said Wednesday no law orders election officials to put his name on the ballot because he simply missed the payment deadline.
The mayoral race now has seven candidates, and no write-ins, on the ballot: Sloan Bashinsky, Randy Becker, George Bellenger, Bill Foley, Teri Johnston, Carie Noda and Margaret Romero.
If needed, a runoff will be held Nov. 6.
Rossi raised $2,600 for this bid and spent $2,200, mostly on radio advertising.