Two Villagers’ decision to file as “fake candidates” has aroused enough suspicion that the case as been turned over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Earlier this year, Villagers Pete Wahl and Jerry Prince filed as write-in candidates for the Sumter County Board of Commissioners.
Prince, then-head of The Villages Republican Club, was trying to protect incumbent Steve Printz, who was facing challenges from fellow Republican candidates Oren Miller and Daniel Myslakowski, both Villagers. Wahl, a former District Manager for The Villages and current chairman of the Lake Sumter State College Board of Trustees, was doing likewise for incumbent Don Burgess, who faced GOP challenger Craig Estep. The purpose of the write-in candidacies was to block roughly 45,000 Democrats and Independents from casting ballots in the race. Thousands of voters changed their party preferences so they could participate in the county race, propelling Miller and Estep to victory. The next day, Wahl and Prince quietly withdrew their write-in candidacies.
Villager Marsha Shearer, long known for her political activism, filed an election fraud complaint with the state.
This week, she received a reply from Colleen O’Brien, assistant general counsel for the Florida Department of State. You can see a copy of that letter at this link: Marsha Shearer received this reply from the Florida Department of State
“We have reviewed your elections fraud complaint and found it to be facially sufficient. Additionally, there is reason to believe elections fraud in connection with voting may have occurred. As such, we have referred the matter to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for criminal investigation and prosecution, if warranted,” O’Brien wrote.
Printz and Burgess were on the ropes due to a 25 percent tax increase unanimously approved in September 2019 by the commission. The tax increase was seen as a sweetheart deal for the Developer of The Villages.
At one point, Prince had promised to explain his write-in candidacy, but the forum at which Prince was to make his explanation was cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic. It was never rescheduled.
Prince also directed a Republican endorsement for Printz, Burgess and fellow incumbent Al Butler. The endorsement was given despite the local Republicans’ bylaws which forbid such preferential treatment within party ranks. The incumbents each pocketed $5,000 donations from the local Republican organization. The endorsements and political contributions came in spite of the write-in candidacies.