Florida Senate candidate drops out after one week on the ballot

Former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Bruce Kaplan, pictured on the dais in 1996.
Former Miami-Dade County Commissioner Bruce Kaplan, pictured on the dais in 1996. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Well, that didn’t last long.

Bruce Kaplan, who qualified last week as a candidate for a state Senate seat, dropped out of the race Friday.

It was an eventful week for Kaplan, a former Miami-Dade County commissioner.

Last Thursday, Kaplan switched his political party affiliation from Republican to Democrat. A day later, he qualified to run for the Florida Senate. A lawsuit was filed on Thursday challenging his candidacy. And on Friday afternoon, Kaplan announced that he was calling it quits.

Running for office can be a fickle proposition, but rarely does a candidate only last a week on the ballot.

“I intend to be involved in my community,” Kaplan said. “I like helping people ... We’re all just volunteering. Not enough people run for office, but more people should.”

Kaplan thought he was eligible to run because he did not vote in the two previous elections. Turns out, he was registered as a Republican until June 23, 2016. According to Florida law, he would’ve had to be a Democrat since June 20, 2015.

Kaplan was 368 days too late. He was one of seven Democrats who qualified for the primary in District 38, which was newly redrawn to include North Miami and Miami Beach.

The race is now down to six.

Kaplan signed a candidate oath last week that reads, “I have not been a registered member of any other political party for 365 days before the beginning of qualifying preceding the general election for which I seek to qualify.”

Christian Ulvert, a Democratic political consultant working for Kaplan rival Jason Pizzo, filed a lawsuit Thursday claiming “electors of Florida State Senate District 38 will be denied their right to a fair and uniform election.”

“Bruce Kaplan has shown a clear disregard for the law and complete disrespect to all the voters in Senate District 38,” Ulvert said in a statement. “In order to cause as little disruption to our Supervisor of Elections as possible, I have instructed my attorney to move swiftly in order to ensure this matter is resolved before the ballots are printed and further harm is inflicted on our voters.”

Even though the lawsuit has not been officially resolved, Kaplan will not contest it. Kaplan says he made a mistake and was not trying to harm the electoral process.

“There was no intent to defraud,” Kaplan said.

Longtime Democratic Sen. Gwen Margolis recently dropped out of the race for the Senate seat Kaplan is seeking after referring to her primary opponents as “three Haitians, some teacher and some lawyer.” Kaplan was not a candidate when Margolis made her comments.

Kaplan, a Miami lawyer, has not held elected office since resigning as county commissioner in 1998 after he was accused of falsifying his financial disclosure forms in 1993 and 1994. Kaplan paid a fine and forfeited his right to run for commission in a special election.