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Tampa Rep.: 'There was no fraud' in lawsuit over qualifying papers

@MichaelAuslen

A case that could disqualify state Rep. Dan Raulerson, R-Plant City, from re-election due to an error on a form he filed with the state was postponed Tuesday — by more problems with paperwork.

Circuit Judge Charles Dodson in Tallahassee said Tuesday that Jose Vazquez Figueroa, a Democrat facing Raulerson in his northeast Hillsborough district, didn’t properly notify Raulerson’s lawyers and those for state officials also listed in the lawsuit he filed about a hearing scheduled for Tuesday.

Vazquez alleges that Raulerson’s personal financial disclosure was tampered with. It appears that Wite-Out was used to change the date on a notary’s signature. Notaries are not allowed too use correction fluid to make changes. They are supposed to make changes to forms by striking items out with a pen.

The office of Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner showed the Times/Herald an original copy of Raulerson’s filing, which appears to have been changed to show a different date.

That’s technically not allowed by notary rules, Raulerson said. But that’s also not the point.

He says this is an overly technical lawsuit and that the law surrounding how notaries change paperwork is intended to prevent fraud.

“There was no fraud,” Raulerson said. “It’s an illustration of how pinheaded our society has become.”

But Vazquez, who ran against Raulerson in 2012 and lost with just 43 percent of the vote, says rules are rules, and Raulerson or his notary broke them on a qualifying filing — and that fact won’t change.

“That document is not going to change, any argument the parties can bring,” he said.

With Election Day two weeks away, it’s not clear whether the case would be settled before voting ends.

Vazquez, who has been representing himself in court and took a bus to Tallahassee to appear before Dodson, said he plans to raise money so he can afford legal help and avoid process errors like the one that delayed the case Tuesday.

And after the election, he has no plans of backing down. Whatever the results, he said he plans to follow through with the lawsuit.

As for Raulerson, he hopes the courts won’t intervene in the race.

“We’ll see if the judiciary wants to insert themselves between the relationship of a state representative and their constituents,” he said.

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