TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) _ In a farewell email to his Republican colleagues on Friday, would-be Florida House Speaker Chris Dorworth says he expects to lose his close race for re-election after a recount.
The Lake Mary lawmaker trailed Democrat Mike Clelland, a political newcomer, in central Florida's District 29 by 123 votes pending an automatic recount tentatively set for Sunday.
He wrote that “the voters have spoken, and assuming the recount confirms the outcome, I respect what they have said.''
Dorworth had been in line to become speaker in two years, following Rep. Will Weatherford, a Wesley Chapel Republican. Weatherford will assume the speakership on Nov. 20 when lawmakers hold their biennial reorganization session.
“Chris Dorworth is a friend and I wish him well,'' Weatherford tweeted. “The FL House will miss him! … As for the Speaker's race, let's allow the members that will serve under the next Speaker to decide.''
Dorworth's departure is expected to create a scramble among Republicans to replace him as 2014-16 speaker-designate. Dorworth wrote that if he had a vote, he'd vote for Rep. Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island.
Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Michael Ertel said that 370 provisional ballots counted late Thursday increased Clelland's lead from 37 votes to 123.
“While there will be recounts, I've been around long enough to know they rarely result in a difference of meaningful numbers of votes,'' Dorworth wrote to his fellow Republicans. “So while we will exercise our right to have these recounts, I do not anticipate that they will change the outcome of the race.''
Dorworth had been dogged throughout his re-election campaign by personal issues including a bitter divorce and conflicting financial reports. He told a court that he had a negative net worth of $3 million but he reported it as only $56,000 on his state financial disclosure form.
Denying that he was concealing anything, Dorworth had attributed the discrepancy to separate accounting methods for different documents with different purposes.