Anna Eskamani, campaigning for the Orange County seat opening up in Florida’s House District 47 for more than a year, drew a Democratic primary opponent with the unexpected entry of Ocoee real estate agent Lou Forges, provided he qualifies for the ballot.
The entry came as a surprise to Orange County Democratic Party leadership, leaving the party scrambling, with little success Thursday, to talk with Forges, find out who he is, and why he chose to enter a last-week challenge to a candidate the party has strongly backed.
Orange County Party Chairman Wes Hodge said Forges declined to talk to him about his campaign Thursday, telling the party chair he was waiting until after qualifying. Hodge said he has questions about Forges’ residency, and about his campaign consultants, who’ve previously largely worked on Republican campaigns, including that of state Rep. Mike Miller, the incumbent in the district.
“We have serious concerns,” about his candidacy, Hodge said.
Forges did not return calls Thursday from Orlando-Rising.
Forges, who turns 48 on July 1, filed his paperwork Wednesday.
Eskamani, of Orlando, is aiming for the seat being vacated by Miller, who is running for Congress. Two Republicans, lawyer Mikaela Nix of Orlando and businessman Stockton Reeves VI, also have been campaigning for the seat.
Through early Friday morning, only Eskamani and Nix had qualified for the ballot.
HD 47 covers north and central Orange County, including much of Winter Park and Orlando, including downtown Orlando and its surrounding neighborhoods.
Hodge said the address Forges lists on his voter registration a house in Ocoee, well outside HD 47, which Forges apparently sold 18 months ago. And the address Forges uses for a homestead exemption is in Apopka, also well outside HD 47, Hodge said.
Forges is working with Corridor Consulting Group, an agency that has worked on the campaigns of Republicans Miller, former state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle, Orange County Commissioner Betsy VanderLey, and Orange County Commission candidate Bobby Lance, among others, Hodge said.
Eskamani, an official with Planned Parenthood, has been a grassroots organizer for years, and has a strong ground game to go along with more than $244,000 in campaign money she has raised. At the end of May, she still had more than $178,000 left in the bank. Reeves, who has lent his campaign about $95,000, ended May with about $104,000 in the bank. Nix, who entered the race in January, had about $36,000 going into June.