By Tom Tillison
Newly declared Orlando mayoral candidate Paul Paulson sent out a somewhat perplexing campaign letter with absentee ballot requests.
In the letter, Paulson goes to great lengths to identify himself as a Republican in what is a nonpartisan race, and even includes the GOP logo.
Voter registration in Orlando leans decidedly Democratic and by identifying as a Republican, Paulson hurts his own cause — unless he was targeting Republican voters only; a likely scenario.
Either way, it appears to be a violation to imply party affiliation when campaigning in nonpartisan municipal elections.
According to the Orlando Weekly, a legal opinion from the Florida Department of State in response to an earlier Orlando mayoral race said that “…as a candidate for nonpartisan municipal office you are prohibited from campaigning based upon party affiliation. Therefore, you must be very careful that your political advertising cannot be construed as such.”
Adding to Paulson’s troubles is a possible trademark violation for using the Republican Party logo on campaign material.
So is this inexperience from a former attorney — the Orlando Sentinel reported that Paulson resigned his law license while under disciplinary investigation by The Florida Bar — unfamiliar with the laws governing campaigning?
Is Paulson receiving dubious counseling from a source with an ulterior motive? Someone with a history of feigning support for one candidate at the behest of another? A so-called Republican not above helping a Democrat if the price is right?
(Did I mention that local political gadfly Doug Guetzloe has taken an exceptional interest in this candidate?)
Or is there something else at play here with Paulson, who is reportedly self-funding his campaign to the tune of $600,000?
Plenty of questions, for sure. What is more clear is that while Paulson has been in the race just under three weeks, there are red flags aplenty for discerning voters to wade through.