As the State Law Enforcement Division investigates Atlantic Beach's 2019 mayoral election, one candidate in that race says he fielded a complaint of voter intimidation.
Incumbent Mayor Jake Evans handily beat challenger Brian Taylor in November, receiving 86 votes to Taylor’s 43, according to the town’s certified election results.
Evans' victory is now the subject of an investigation by SLED. The mayor did not respond to multiple attempts to reach him.
SLED spokesman Tommy Crosby said the investigation was requested by the 15th Circuit Solicitor’s Office. Solicitor Jimmy Richardson and SLED have both declined to provide more details about the specifics of the investigation, except to confirm that the inquiry is ongoing.
Challenger Brian Taylor said he’d heard rumors about “irregularities” during past elections, but didn’t know specifics. He said he hadn't been in contact with SLED.
“The morning of the election, I received an anonymous call from a woman,” Taylor said. “She just said to me that she wanted to know what should she do if she was experiencing voter intimidation. She told me she lived in Atlantic Beach. She would not tell me where she lived in Atlantic Beach but she told me that her and people she knew were experiencing voter intimidation. She used the term ‘bullying’ and the term ‘threaten.’”
Taylor said he told the woman to contact the proper authorities.
He said he was “pleasantly surprised" to hear about the investigation.
“Knowing that the town has not been able to move in a serious positive direction in quite some time, we need to figure out why we can’t move the ball forward,” Taylor said, adding that if anyone could move the town in a positive direction, he’d “be happy to hear about it.”
Irene Armstrong, Evans’ sister and a former mayor, said in an email she was “shocked” to learn about the investigation. She said she was unaware that it was happening.
“As a professional licensed realtor and upstanding citizen and former mayor, I continue to support the improvement of community and society as a whole, guided by an integrity that remains my golden seal,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong herself was indicted in 2008 on several charges, including allegations that she bought votes, according to multiple media reports. She was never convicted.