Allie Braswell, who last week was rolled out as the Democrats’ first high-profile challenger for a state Cabinet post, ended his campaign Monday following revelations that he had filed for bankruptcy three times, most recently in 2008.
Braswell, 51, the head of the Central Florida Urban League, apologized to supporters while taking full responsibility for his actions in a release that announced his departure from the 2014 campaign for Florida’s chief financial officer.
“The bright spotlight of a statewide campaign has cast the ups and downs of my life into harsh relief, and I now know that this campaign is not the way I was meant to serve my community,” Braswell said in the release. “Running statewide is a daunting challenge for any candidate; as a political outsider, I have now learned that I underestimated how my campaign would affect those I care about most.”
On Friday, a day after Braswell opened his campaign, The Florida Times-Union reported that Braswell had filed for bankruptcy in Orlando in 2008, after having done so twice in South Carolina in the 1990s.
Joshua Karp, a spokesman for the Florida Democratic Party, said Monday that while Braswell is a self-made man, he was “not ready for the rigors of a statewide campaign, and that was plain.”
Steve Schale, a Democratic political consultant, wrote on Twitter that Braswell made the right decision.
“Braswell had an immense mountain to climb if he ran perfect campaign,” Schale tweeted. “After that first day, he was done. Smart to get out now.”
Braswell’s sudden departure leaves the Democrats once again without a highly recognizable name for a Cabinet post in 2014.
Karp expects that will change, but he wouldn’t say if the party had anyone lined up for the CFO slot.
“In the course of a long campaign cycle, with a lot of statewide offices, I think you’ll see any number of people consider it,” Karp said.
Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Attorney General Pam Bondi make up an all-GOP Cabinet and plan to run for re-election. Each won by at least 13 percentage points in 2010.
Atwater has already raised $195,125 in cash for his re-election bid and received $366,651 in in-kind contributions, state elections records show.
Last Thursday, Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Allison Tant praised Braswell as “exactly the kind of leader we need in Tallahassee.”
Republican Party of Florida Chairman Lenny Curry used Braswell’s departure as a chance to take a shot at his Democratic counterpart.
“Allie Braswell had better sense to drop out than Allison Tant did to endorse him,” Curry said in a statement. “To back a candidate in charge of Florida’s finances without vetting that candidate’s handling of his personal finances shows either a high level of incompetence or a new level of desperation for Allison Tant.”
Karp declined to discuss party candidate vetting.
Democrat Thaddeus “Thad” Hamilton also has filed to run for agriculture commissioner. Hamilton drew 2 percent of the vote for that office as a non-partisan candidate four years ago.
According to the Times-Union, Braswell said the first bankruptcy filing in South Carolina was dismissed because of a mistake, leading to the second. Braswell said he “used bankruptcy as way to responsibly pay my debt” and that his financial problems would allow him to empathize with voters.
“Honestly, my story is of a regular guy,” Braswell told the Times-Union. “I’ve felt the pain that a lot of people feel.”
Braswell, who spent 13 years in the Marine Corps and whose career after the military included time as a technology executive with Disney, said when he entered the race that he would focus on foreclosures and property-insurance rates. He touted his ability to cut a $14 million budget he oversaw at Disney to $11 million without cutting jobs.
In his withdrawal statement, Braswell pointed to his experiences, including his personal financial struggles, for what made him want to run for the statewide office in 2014.
“At the Urban League, I work every day with people who are struggling to make it,” Braswell said. “As I have experienced struggles in my life, so many people are struggling, and that is what inspired me to run for Florida’s chief financial officer — to be a champion, standing up for the poor and middle class.”
–Jim Turner, News Service of Florida