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Winter Park candidate drops lawsuit

Isaac Babcock

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Winter Park City Commission candidate Ross Johnston suspended his campaign and dropped his lawsuit at once Tuesday morning. In a released statement at 9:18 a.m. he wrote that he was dropping out for the benefit of the city.

"Though the process of the legal discovery actually increased my confidence in our case, it also became clear that winning the suit would result in collateral damage that would be painful to many and would not benefit the city in the long run," Johnston wrote.

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Ross Johnston

The candidate had been embroiled in a lawsuit against City Clerk Cindy Bonham about whether his candidacy should have been rejected due to technicalities. Johnston had arrived before the deadline to file for election Jan. 8 at noon, but had failed to complete his qualification process on time, according to the clerk.

The clerk, city attorney, Johnston and his attorney were scheduled to meet in a judicial trial hearing Thursday to determine whether Johnston had legal right to candidacy and whether Bonham's rejection of his candidacy was legal.

Johnston had said he decided to qualify for candidacy at the last minute after being informed nobody would run against incumbent Commissioner Carolyn Cooper in the upcoming March election.

Johnston said he was proud of the rapid effort of friends and supporters.

"My brief campaign was truly a grass roots effort to preserve the democratic process that had its start in an unexpected morning conversation on the playground at Saint Margaret Mary School," Johnston wrote.

Cooper said she had expected the city's side to prevail on Thursday's legal hearing.

"I'm just puzzled as to why it happened in the first place," she said of the legal challenge. "It appeared to be a frivolous lawsuit in the first place, and we wasted the city's resources and the city's energy because of that. I don't believe they had a defensible position."

Cooper said she was happy to concentrate on representing the people of the city rather than campaigning.

"I'm proud to serve the citizens of Winter Park for three more years," she said.