Newly elected GOP lawmaker asks Florida judge to throw out lawsuit challenging his election
Newly elected Republican Rep. Mike Redondo is asking a judge in South Florida to throw out a lawsuit by his Democratic campaign opponent that seeks to remove him from office. He is accused of not living in his legislative district and therefore isn’t qualified to be a state lawmaker.
Redondo, R-Miami, this week filed a motion to dismiss the case, saying that a county judge or state circuit judge doesn’t have authority to rule in the matter. He said under Florida’s Constitution and state law such disputes are settled by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
“The court must dismiss this matter for lack of jurisdiction,” Redondo’s motion said. It added: “The sole body constitutionally empowered to hear the instant action would be the Florida House.”
The motion also asked the judge to award him attorney’s fees and court costs. Redondo, who did not respond to phone calls or texts this week, did not address in his court filing the claim that he was not a resident of the district where he was elected.
Voters elected Redondo to his House seat in District 118 in a special election Dec. 5. He defeated Democrat Johnny Gonzalo Farias 52% to 46% by a slimmer-than-expected margin of 540 votes in the heavily leaning GOP district.
Redondo also said in the motion that Farias’ lawsuit should have named as defendants the county supervisor of elections, the House and the secretary of state.
Redondo, who runs his own law firm in Miami, was being represented in the case by the Tallahassee-based Coates Law Firm, which has worked for the Republican Party of Florida and other GOP candidates and specializes in cases of election law and government ethics.
Questions about Redondo’s residency emerged in the hours after his election. Fresh Take Florida, a news service of the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications, published a news article late Dec. 5. It noted that Redondo had in May signed a $727,000 mortgage agreement on a waterfront condominium 20 miles away, in District 113, that required him to live in the condo as his principal residence for at least one year beginning, at the latest, 60 days after signing.
Only approval from his mortgage lender, City National Bank of Florida, would allow him to make his principal residence elsewhere, according to the document. The bank has said it will not discuss the matter publicly. No updated mortgage documents have been filed with the county.
When asked about the agreement in a Dec. 4 interview, Redondo said he did not know whether he had this approval from his lender to live elsewhere.
Redondo leased an apartment in the district in June. His voter registration records on Friday continued to list that as his primary residence.
Redondo said in an interview Dec. 8 with American Lawyer Media that he had spoken with his lender and that there were no residency issues regarding the mortgage agreement.
Farias, his Democratic opponent, sued Redondo on Dec. 14, seeking an injunction preventing Redondo from taking office as a House member. That didn’t happen.
Redondo has been in the Capitol for weeks for committee hearings already, and was formally recognized as a lawmaker earlier this week when the House convened Tuesday to launch the 60-day legislative session. He has introduced at least five bills, including one that would toughen penalties for drivers who cause crashes that injure or kill pedestrians, bicyclists or highway workers.
In his lawsuit filed in Miami Dade County Court, Farias accused Redondo of failing to live in the district on the day of the election, citing the terms of the mortgage agreement. He said that since Florida requires legislative candidates to live in the district where they are running by the day of the election, Redondo wasn’t qualified to run for or hold the seat.
The lawsuit cited the condo mortgage provision and Redondo’s 2023 real estate property taxes. Some tax statements were mailed as recently as December to an address in the same condo building where Redondo bought the unit, where he previously had rented another condo.
This story was produced by Fresh Take Florida, a news service of the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. The reporter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can donate to support our students here.