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Florida watchdog group report: No evidence of ‘ghost candidates’ this election cycle 

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
A poll worker directs voters at an early voting site, Monday, Oct. 31, 2022, in Miami. Midterm elections are Nov. 8.

A Florida-based government watchdog group has found no evidence of “ghost candidates,” or unaffiliated candidates forced into races to siphon votes, in this year’s midterm elections in the state. 

Ghost candidates appeared in three Florida Senate races in the last presidential election cycle, when three candidates without a party were “essentially bribed” to get their name on the ballot in order to pull votes away from Democrats in the running, according to the nonpartisan watchdog group Integrity Florida. 

“The criminal use of ghost candidates did not surface again at the state level in 2022, likely because many of those who took advantage of the scheme are facing charges that will result in convictions and possible jailtime,” the nonprofit said in its new report, released Tuesday. 

Integrity Florida said that, this year, there was a report of a potential ghost candidate in a smaller county commission race near Orlando, but the accused candidate says he was on the ballot as a serious contender. 

Republicans won in all three districts that saw a ghost candidate scheme in 2020, and though Integrity Florida notes that two of the districts would’ve gone red regardless, one district was “clearly” influenced by the scheme.  

That year, an unaffiliated candidate named Alex Rodriguez ran against incumbent Democratic state Sen. José Javier Rodríguez and Republican challenger Ileana Garcia for Florida’s 37th District.

Integrity Florida highlights that Alex Rodriguez, who notably ran with the same last name as the incumbent, “did no campaigning yet was the beneficiary of a dark money advertising campaign” and received more than 6,000 votes in the race.

Garcia ended up ousting the incumbent Democrat by just over 30 votes, “indicating that the candidate successfully siphoned votes away from the Democratic incumbent,” the report reads. Reports of ghost candidates were recorded in 2018 for the same purpose.  

The Tampa Bay Times first reported on the new report.  

Tags Alex Rodriguez Florida ghost candidates Integrity Florida midterms 2022 The Tampa Bay Times
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