Special to the Times
Former state Sen. Nancy Argenziano filed suit Friday seeking to overturn an election law that forbids her from running for Congress as a Democrat.
Argenziano, who represented Citrus County in the House of Representatives and Senate and later served as chairwoman of the Public Service Commission, is challenging a provision that stops candidates from switching parties within 365 days prior to qualifying for the ballot.
Argenziano is a former Republican from Dunnellon who left the party last spring as part of her plan to run against incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland in a Panhandle district that includes Tallahassee, where Argenziano now lives.
When a friend told her of the new law and its June 4, 2010 deadline to switch parties, Argenziano joined the Independent Party, thinking it was the same as registering no-party affiliation. She learned too late that Independent is an actual political party, meaning that if she is to continue her campaign for U.S. House in the 2012 election, she must do as an Independent.
Argenziano said Friday that the law protects incumbents and acts as a deterrent to anyone wanting to seek office by forcing them to declare a political party 18 months before the election.
“It is tantamount to requiring party declaration before even the full extent of the incompetence and deceit of the changing candidate slate is revealed, and works to deprive a person of the ability to confront that deceit and incompetence at the most fundamental level, which is to oppose them at the ballot,” she said.
Before the new law took effect, candidates could not switch parties within six months of the election.
Argenziano blamed Republican leadership for the law.
“There was no debate on much of what they put into the bill,” she said. “They gave the people of Florida a very small window of opportunity to know what was in it.” Argenziano said she would have filed the lawsuit even if she had not decided to seek office.
“Somebody needed to get up and say, ‘this is no good,’” she said. Argenziano said that if she loses the lawsuit, she will still run as an Independent. She said: “I can’t sit back and do nothing.”