TAMPA — Florida Democrats have recruited a candidate to challenge Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater in the 2014 election: Central Florida Urban League President Allie Braswell Jr. of Orlando.
Braswell, 51, a U.S. Marine veteran and former information technology executive for Disney, is a political newcomer who says he’ll “put our state government back on the side of every Floridian, not just the connected and well off.”
“I’m not a politician. But what we’re getting out of politician Jeff Atwater is a go-along to get-along style that is hurting Floridians,” he said in a news release.
“Under his watch, billions in no-bid contracts have been given away and people with insider connections are getting rich off taxpayer money.”
Florida Democrats’ biggest priority for 2014 is to unseat Florida Gov. Rick Scott, but state party Chairman Allison Tant has been promising to field credible candidates in races for state Cabinet seats as well – the CFO, attorney general and agriculture commissioner.
Braswell was introduced to reporters Thursday by a party spokesman.
He’s a Sanford native who grew up in Oviedo, son of a citrus truck driver and schoolteacher.
He joined the Marines in 1982, serving in signals intelligence and cryptography, and left because of bad knees, he said in an interview.“My kids say I’m still in the Marines, I just don’t report in every day.”
Afterward he worked for a Maryland computer company, then for about seven years in technical services and corporate social responsibility for Disney, where he said he reduced budgets without cutting jobs. He’s worked for the Urban League for 3 1/2 years.
Braswell has never run for office or been involved in politics other than lobbying government officials about community problems as part of the Urban League, he said. Seeing results of Urban League programs to help job-seekers and first-time homebuyers is “what inspires me and moves me along,” he said.
Braswell is divorced with four children ages 17 to 30. He holds a bachelor’s degree in information technology from American Intercontinental University, a private, for-profit, on-line school.
Braswell said his campaign team will include political consultant Ana Cruz of Tampa.
Atwater, a former North Palm Beach vice mayor and state legislator, was elected chief financial officer in 2010.
He’s considered one of the Florida GOP’s strongest political fund raisers, and has been mentioned as a potential candidate for U.S. Senator or governor.
Asked about his chances against one of Florida’s most powerful political figures, Braswell said, “It’s going to be a fight, but I think we’re going to go out and raise the money to help us tell our story.”
Florida Republican Party Chairman Lenny Curry called Braswell’s criticisms of Atwater “ridiculous,” saying Atwater is “a tireless watchdog of taxpayer money and a defender of consumers,” adding that discussing his record in a campaign “is a conversation we look forward to having.”