Florida House Minority Leader Perry E. Thurston, Jr. (D-Fort Lauderdale) announced his bid for Florida Attorney General, hoping voters will forget his ongoing residency scandal. Thurston made the announcement at the Florida Democratic Party convention at the Disney Beach and Yacht Club Resort.
Last April, Media Trackers Florida was the first to report that Thurston was violating residency requirements of the Florida Constitution. Thurston claims to be living with a convicted felon in a small home in Lauderhill, rather than with his wife and children in the two-story home he owns in Plantation, in order to meet elected officials’ residency requirements. When a South Florida 10 News reporter caught Thurston coming and going from his Plantation home, Thurston defiantly said he lives in the Plantation home “when I want to.”
Facing term limits in 2014, many Broward political insiders expected Thurston to challenge Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, but wondered if scandals would derail his political aspirations. One highly placed Florida Democrat source told Media Trackers Florida that a Thurston bid would be used to increase minority voter turnout in Broward County in order to help Charlie Crist’s expected gubernatorial bid. Thurston appeared to confirm this in a statement to the Miami Herald.
“I think we can drive up turnout, but more importantly, Pam Bondi is vulnerable and we can win. I have a proven track record of raising funds and winning races,” said Thurston.
The Florida Constitution requires state legislators to live in the districts they represent. Thurston, a lawyer, represents House District 94. Broward County Property Appraiser records show Thurston, the Democratic Minority Leader of the Florida House of Representatives, owns a two-story home with his wife in Plantation in Florida House District 99. Thurston claims to be living with a convicted felon in a small home in Lauderhill, rather than with his wife and children in the two-story home he owns in Plantation, in order to meet elected officials’ residency requirements
A Media Trackers Florida review of Broward County Supervisor of Elections (SOE) records shows Thurston is registered to vote at the home of Frances Merricks, a 71-year-old Lauderhill woman. The Merricks home is located in district 94. Thurston, Frances Merricks, and her son, Earl Merricks, Jr. are registered to vote at the Lauderhill address. According to the Broward County Clerk of Courts, Thurston provided legal representation for Earl Merricks, Jr. when he was charged with multiple felonies including burglary, possession of cocaine, and possession of drug paraphernalia.
In his campaign report filed with the Florida Division of Elections, Thurston stated he raised $5,450 between July 1 and September 30, 2013. Thurston’s campaign spent $7,361.29 during that same time period with most of the money going to Thurston and his wife. On July 3, Frances Merricks received $70 for “campaign supplies.” Perry Thurston received $765 while Dawn Thurston received $1,404. 79.
Thurston used more than $2,000 to purchase gas, buy meals at The Cheescake Factory, and attend events at Florida’s most exclusive hotels. On July 10, Thurston attended a “social media meeting” at the Ritz Carlton on Fort Lauderdale beach. On July 13, Thurston used campaign cash to attend an “Orlando fundraiser” at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn. On July 27, Thurston spent campaign money to attend another event at the world famous Fountainebleau Resort on Miami Beach.