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Fed up with the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, Republican Kristopher Stark, a candidate to represent reconfigured Florida House District 37, sent the Seminole County Supervisor of Elections a request last year to be taken off state voter rolls.
He said he was frustrated President Donald Trump won Florida but somehow lost the White House, which he wrongly believes was “stolen.”
“My vote means nothing. Cancel my registration,” Stark wrote on the Seminole County removal form in January 2021, still peeved over Democrat Joe Biden’s triumph over Trump two months after the ballots were cast. “You + the system are a joke. Thank you, communists.”
He said he wasn’t venting at any specific individual “just expressing frustration for the whole system.”
But Stark’s request to be clipped from the rolls of registered voters, granted by elections officials, might endanger his eligibility for the Republican nomination of the statehouse seat because of a clause in a 2021 bill, which was primarily aimed at restricting vote-by-mail options.
Introduced by state Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, and signed into law last year by Gov. Ron DeSantis, the new statute requires a candidate vying for a party’s nomination to be a registered party member for 365 days before qualifying for the post begins.
Elections supervisor records show that Stark did not re-register as a Republican voter until January 2022. He said he registered while at the Tax Collector’s Office to update his home address on state identification and a clerk asked if he’d like to update his voter’s ID, too.
Stark would square off in the Aug. 23 primary election against Republican Susan Plasencia. The winner of that contest would challenge the Democratic incumbent, state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith.
Victor Martinez, campaign manager for Plasencia, raised the question of eligibility in an email to the Orlando Sentinel that included a link to a Florida Politics story about a Tampa-area candidate in a similar predicament. Also attached to the email was a copy of Stark’s candidacy oath, signed May 31, attesting he had been a registered member of the Republican Party for the required time.
“If Stark wins the primary, it is almost certain that the Democrat party will challenge the requirement, thus handing Carlos Smith the seat without the need for a general election,” Martinez said in the email.
Smith, who has served six years in the Legislature, is unopposed in the Democratic Party’s primary. He declined comment.
State elections officials did not return repeated calls regarding the issue.
Plasencia, sister of four-term Republican lawmaker Rene “Coach P” Plasencia, has not sought Stark’s disqualification.
Asked if she planned to bring a challenge, Martinez said, “That will be up to the candidate.”
A first-time candidate, Stark said he’s always been a Republican. “My history is more than proof,” he said.
He pointed out he did not join another party or claim “no party affiliated” when he exited the voter rolls.
Stark also questioned the Plasencia campaign’s tactics.
“I find it not on the up-and-up if you’re going to accuse someone of something then not do something about it,” he said.
His self-funded campaign website, krisstark.us, says he supports “the legitimate president, Donald J. Trump.” Stark contends those charged with rioting Jan. 6, 2021 at the U.S. Capitol to keep the nation’s former chief executive in the Oval Office are “patriots.”
There is no credible evidence the 2020 presidential election was determined by fraud, as some Trump supporters contend.
Stark blames frustration over the election for “the colorful metaphors” he wrote on the removal form.
“I wrote some bad stuff,” he said.