Here we are, and we’re going to finish our rivalry series at the end of the year, with the announcement that kicked off Orlando Politics at the beginning of the year. The “Casey Race” for Orange-Osceola State Attorney between longtime incumbent Lawson Lamar and Casey Anthony Prosecutor Jeff Ashton.
Florida Politics with Frank Torres. And here we are, the number 1 political rivalry here in Orlando from 2012 and this one got started very early in the year. It started with a cold declaration on a freezing January morning in Downtown Orlando. It also involved the backdrop of a national story. A story that had the nation in front of it’s television for hours a day. The number political rivalry of 2012 is The “Casey Race”, the race for Orange-Osceola Attorney between incumbent Lawson Lamar and Casey Anthony Prosecutor Jeff Ashton. A bitter race, a race that ran high on emotions, alot of what happened behind the scenes of the biggest trial the nation has scene over the past few years and some finger pointing over the outcome of the trial. You’ll remember, Anthony accused of killing her young daughter. The trial landed right here in Orlando, you had new trucks parked on Orange Avenue for months covering this trial. And after the race was over Ashton retired. Then he announced he would run against his former boss Lamar on that January morning.
A lot of interesting angles in the race besides the Casey factor. You had one of Lamar’s own guys coming after him, after Ashton retired, he wrote a big and did the talk show circuit, “The View” and things like that. And the book sold well. He was everywhere. A movie was made after the book and he was casted by Rob Lowe. The movie comes out next month, check the dates, it’s around the anniversary of when Ashton announced.
More subplots. There were two other candidates. Defense attorney Yoerg Jager and fellow attorney from the state Attorney’s office Ryan Williams. They both jumped in the race, both ended up dropping out and each lined up behind opposing candidates. Williams behind Ashton, Jager behind Lamar. It also came down to a discussion over the efficiency of the office. Was the technology outdated? Were the attorneys overworked? Should the State Attorney try cases? Or was the role of the State Attorney to be a manager and administrator? And it would come down to that discussion.
Well who won? Well, Jeff Ashton won, but the story that makes this the number 1 rivalry isn’t just the fact that it’s the “Casey Race”. It wasn’t over the duties of the office. It was actually one of the events that happened the night of the election. After Ashton was the announced winner, Casey Anthony’s father George went to congratulate Ashton on his victory. I remember when I saw Anthony making his way to the party. No one knew what he was going to do. He actually arrived to the party and embraced Ashton. In a truly dramatic conclusion to the year’s biggest rivalry.
I wrote a blog post about this race. Did Jeff Ashton plan it all out? Did he know from the day he retired that he was going to challenge Lamar? And if he did, how carefully was it planned? From the media tour to taking the profits of that media tour and using it in the campaign. I believed he benefited from the celebrity status he got from the trial. But was it planned? Only he would be able to tell you. That’s why it was the biggest rivalry of the year and Jeff Ashton came out the winner.
It’s been great being able to deliver this rivalry series to you. Over the year, there are so many races, so much negative dialogue it’s difficult to pull them apart. These were the top races I believe were the biggest rivalries of the year, that had the most tense exchanges between candidates, and negative messages. I enjoyed bringing it to you. It’s been a great series. Before the year is over we’ll have our “Year in quotes” for Florida Politics with Frank Torres, I’ll see you next time!
LINKS TO THE REST OF THE TOP TEN:
10. Buddy Dyer vs. “The Field”
9. Connie Mack vs. Charlie Sheen
8. John Tegg vs. Jerry Demings
7. Scott Plakon vs. Karen Castor Dentel
6. Orange County Activists vs. The Orange County Commission
5. Charlie Crist vs. The Florida GOP
4. Chris Dorworth vs. The Media
3. Alan Grayson vs. Todd Long
2. Sandy Adams vs. John Mica