House District 47 candidate Lou Forges dropped out of the Democratic primary field Thursday as a court hearing approached on his opponent Anna Eskamani‘s lawsuit claiming he was a fake Democratic candidate who improperly filed candidacy paperwork.
Forges, an Ocoee real estate agent who does not live in the district, sent notice Thursday to the Florida Department of State Division of Elections requesting to withdraw his candidacy.
Forges had entered the race against Eskamani in the closing days of qualifying last month. He hired Corridor Consulting Group, which has a history of primarily running Republican campaigns including that of the district’s incumbent, state Rep. Mike Miller. Orange County Democratic Party Chair Wes Hodge and Eskamani both publicly questioned whether he was being convinced to run by Republicans to force Eskamani into spending money on a primary.
On July 6 Eskamani sued in Leon County Circuit Court charging that Forges had violated the law by having his wife sign and notarize his documents. Earlier this week a hearing was set on that suit.
Forges’ letter of withdrawal was brief, giving no reasons.
Eskamani, who hopes to flip the central-Orange County seat, now can wait for the November election against the Republican candidate, Mikaela Nix of Orlando or Stockton Reeves VI of Winter Park.
“When we fight, we win,” she declared in a statement Thursday. “Two weeks ago we filed a judicial complaint seeking a declaration from a Tallahassee judge that our fake Democratic primary opponent failed to properly qualify, thus requiring him to be decertified as a candidate. Our opponent failed to properly qualify because his paperwork was notarized by his spouse, an act that is completely against Florida Statute.
“Today our fake primary opponent officially withdrew,” she continued in a news release. “I will never back down from protecting our democracy from corrupt political games and dirty tricks. House District 47 deserves better than that, and our community can count on me to always fight for what is right.
Eskamani maintained that Forges was recruited by Republicans to run against her and was exploited, and so she did not blame him directly.
“Our opponent was exploited by the Republican Party to run against me in a fake primary,” she stated. “There are no limits to how low the GOP will go to stop us from flipping this seat, and we must be ready for anything come November. Clear eyes, full hearts can’t lose.”