As Orange County Democrats wait for the chance to name a replacement for Paul Chandler to run in the Oct. 10 special election to fill the House District 44 seat they may yet face a challenge on that candidate’s eligibility.

On Thursday, at a forum hosted by the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida, the chairs for the Orange County Democrats and Republicans hashed out local politics and the possibilities they face in the one current election. The HD 44 race, headed for a special election in a few weeks, is mired in uncertainty on the Democrats’ side while Republican Bobby Olszewski prepares to win the historically Republican district’s seat.

But while Democratic Chair Wes Hodge and the Democratic Executive Committee are scrambling to nominate a new candidate as soon as Chandler files his withdrawal paperwork, Republican Chair Lew Oliver hinted that there’s no certainty Republicans will stand by and allow a new name onto the ballot.

Chandler announced Tuesday he was withdrawing from the race because of “outside circumstances” created because his eligibility is being challenged by a lawsuit in Tallahassee. As of noon Thursday he still had not filed his paperwork to withdraw.

The first absentee ballots, to military voters, were set to go out this weekend, so Hodge is under pressure to have a candidate named in the next 24 hours or so. However, Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles said there is some flexibility in when he has to get those first ballots out.

If a judge rules him to be ineligible and removes him from the ticket, Democrats will not be able to replace him. If he quits, Florida law allows that the local party can select a replacement candidate. But the race has some level of uncertainty because the lawsuit is still pending.

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