TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Jim Norman is back on the General Election ballot for State Senate, District 12.
Norman appealed a lower court ruling disqualifying him from the November State Senate ballot.
In her ruling, Judge Jackie Fulford wrote that a half million dollars the late Tampa businessman Ralph Hughes gave to Norman’s wife Mearline for the purchase of an Arkansas vacation home was an indirect gift to Norman himself.
An ABC Action News investigation in July uncovered the previously undisclosed vacation home listed only in the name of Norman’s wife.
State Representative Kevin Ambler, who lost to Norman in the Republican primary, sued, claiming the home should have been included on Norman’s financial disclosure statement.
This past weekend, local Republican party leaders chose State Representative Rob Wallace to take Norman's place following the lower court ruling. Today's appeals court ruling throws another wrench in the gears as the general election approaches.
"When we went into the process, we knew this was a possibility," said Hillsborough County GOP Chairwoman Deborah Roush. "It's unfortunate for the voters. We had actually hoped to wait until the appeals process is over before taking the steps that we did this past weekend."
Norman's attorneys were pleased with the ruling, but disturbed by the process. Attorney Barry Richard said, "This has caused a difficult disruption in the election."
In a written statement, attorney Frank Winkles said, "The trial judge had no authority to make any findings and no jurisdiction to hear the case. The loser of an election should not be allowed to file such a spurious lawsuit after the voters have spoken. This whole process violated the Florida Constitution and every concept of fairness to the winning candidate and his family."
Ambler has a remaining option, the Florida Supreme Court.
"I don't see any basis for the Supreme Court to take up the decision," said Richard. "When I spoke to Mr. Norman, he was very happy."
Winkles said Norman will address the media sometime in the next few days.
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