James Continues Fight Despite Scandal



The race for state House District in District 72 looked to be one of top contests in the state, based almost entirely on the promise of candidate Ed James III, an experienced campaign worker for other successful underdogs. Now a sex scandal involving James has led to the Democratic Party’s full retreat and left James tarnished. Still, the candidate says he will remain in the contest, and hopes the supporters sticking with him will send him to Tallahassee.

James continues to campaign door-to-door and through phone calls, he says, to talk with voters about the issues they care about. He touts a standing endorsement from the Sierra Club and promises to oppose fracking in Florida. “The most common thing I hear is they want someone to stand up for the environment,” he says. He wants more money devoted to acquiring sensitive lands, pursuant to a voter-passed amendment mandating as much.

And he touts being a product of Sarasota’s public schools. Sarasota County School Board chairman Shirley Brown, who once held the House seat James seeks now, remains on his list of strong supporters. He also wants more low-income people taking advantage of free pre-K, a service funded universally for four-year-olds but of which many parents most in need of assistance remain unaware.

And he says his history working for members of legislative bodies will ensure he positively impacts legislation, even as a Democrat in a majority Republican district. “It’s not always about what parties you are in; it’s about being an effective legislator during the process and being able to use influence on committees,” he says. An experienced campaigner, he worked for successful campaigns for U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and also in the private sector for Google.

But James now must deal with a massively damaging scandal. In mid-June, a woman accused James of sexual assault after the two were partying with a group in Downtown Sarasota. She told police she woke up to being sexually touched by James in a hotel room while her boyfriend slept nearby, but elected not to press charges and did not respond to follow-up by investigators. James maintained the situation started consensually, and that when he was told to stop, he did so. “I could have certainly done a better job of not putting myself in that situation,” he says. “When I filed to run, it was always about giving back to a community that has given so much to me, and ultimately the people will decide who will be their representative.”

Both the Sarasota and Florida Democratic Party backed out of the race after James was asked to withdraw and declined. James has resisted calls to end his candidacy. “This has been the election cycle of the bully,” he says, “and I will not be bullied out of this race.” The sudden “mudslinging,” he says, is something Sarasota voters have no appetite for, and he believes a commitment to running his race in a civil fashion is important. “I know the voters, not only in District 72 but the state of Florida, are intelligent and educated to make decisions on the issues.”

James runs against Republican Alex Miller in District 72. The general election is scheduled for Nov. 8.

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