State Rep. Mike Horner, a Republican from Kissimmee, abruptly resigned his seat in the Florida House on Monday following reports that he was a client at a Central Florida brothel.
Horner, 44, was a solid favorite to win a third term in District 42 in Osceola and Polk counties. His name surfaced during the investigation of alleged brothel owner, Mark David Risner, 54, who faces racketeering and prostitution charges and is accused of running a prostitution ring out of his Orange County home. Investigators found hundreds of names as they investigated Risner’s operation, and Horner shut down his campaign website shortly after his name was publicized.
Republican and Democratic political sources have told the Miami Herald that the prostitution ring included prostitutes catering to gay clients.
Horner is not charged with a crime.
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“We’re not interested in the representative,” said Bernie Presha, a spokesperson for the state attorney’s office in Orlando, which has not released details of their investigation into the alleged prostitution ring.
Said Horner in a statement: "I deeply regret decisions I made that are causing my family unjustifiable pain and embarrassment. While current press accounts from this morning are erroneous, my family still deserves better from me, as do all my friends, supporters and constituents. So today I am announcing I will no longer seek reelection to the Florida House."
Incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, called Horner’s action "the right decision."
“It is in the best interest of our state and his family,” Weatherford said in a statement. “As elected officials, we are held to a high standard and no member of the Florida House is above that standard. I accept Mike’s decision and offer my prayers during this difficult time for him and his family."
Horner was an affable and low-key legislator and, with high turnover in the House membership, would have had a major assignment in Weatherford’s administration, beginning Nov. 20. Elected in 2008, he served for the past two years as chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee for transportation and economic development.
Married with one son, he has been president of the Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce since 1996.
Under Florida law, the Republican Party can name a replacement candidate for Horner, but Horner’s name will remain on the ballot, said MaryJane Arrington, Osceola County’s supervisor of elections. By law, any votes cast for Horner would be credited to the replacement candidate.
Horner was easily expected to win reelection to the House. His campaign had raised $223,901, far beyond his Democratic opponent, Eileen Game of Frostproof.
According to Game’s campaign filings, she has raised $16,390, with most of the money from personal loans to herself.
Game, a business executive, did not immediately use the scandal to go on the offensive against the name that will be on the ballot next to hers.
“This is a deeply personal matter for Mike and his family,” Game said in a statement. “My prayers go out to them as they sort through how to move ahead with this matter.”
Democrats hold a registration advantage in the district, but more than one in five voters are independents. The district’s voters preferred Gov. Rick Scott over Democratic candidate Alex Sink in 2010, giving the governor 52.5 percent of the vote. In 2008, the district narrowly went to John McCain, who beat Obama by 254 votes out of more than 61,000 cast.