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Senate District 15

Thompson claims Bracy lives in Lake County, misused campaign funds

June 17, 2024 at 12:13:33 AM

Norine Dworkin

Editor in Chief

Aerial view of former State Sen. Randolph Bracy's $2.8M Clermont home. Social media posts appear to suggest he spends his time here while there's an Oakland address on his campaign documents.

Lake County Property Appraiser

As they say, people who live in glass houses probably shouldn’t hold press conferences alleging their political opponents don't live in their districts. 

Democratic State Sen. Geraldine Thompson, who had to defend herself against former State Sen. Randolph Bracy's accusations that she lives out of District 15, where she is running for re-election, fired back in a Saturday interview with VoxPopuli. She claims that Bracy, her opponent in the Aug. 20 election, not only doesn't live in District 15, he doesn't even live in Orange County.

“He’s the man who holds a press conference to question my residency, where I live, when in fact, he is a resident of Lake County,” Thompson said during her Juneteenth celebration at Camping World Stadium. “He’s hypocritical and deceitful. And he says he wants his seat back. The seat doesn’t belong to him. The seat belongs to the people in Senate District 15, and they decide who sits there.”

VoxPopuli clipped this footage from former State Sen. Randolph Bracy's Instagram. He said on the video that showing his house wasn't a "flex" but a "testimony of the goodness of the Lord."

Two homes, two counties

A check of Lake County Property Appraiser records shows that Bracy owns a lakefront home in Clermont — known as the “BraMay Manor” on Instagram. It was purchased with his wife Kietta Mayweather Bracy for $2.8M on January 22. That home has a homestead exemption for $25,000 and an additional homestead exemption for another $25,000. 

According to Orange County Property Appraiser records, Bracy also owns a home in Oakland and claims a 2024 homestead exemption for that residence as well. That home address is listed on his campaign documents. Bracy is registered to vote in Oakland, according to the Orange County Supervisor of Elections, which sent Bracy's voter information to VoxPopuli Monday as part of a public records request.

Legislators can have multiple homes, but only one legal residence. Likewise, homeowners can have multiple homes, but they can only claim a homestead exemption on the home they “own and occupy as their permanent residence as of January 1.” 

Bracy told VoxPopuli Sunday that the homestead exemption on his Clermont residence was not his, but belonged to the home’s previous owner. That was confirmed Monday by the Lake County Property Appraiser.

In a Monday text message, Bracy said, "My legal homesteaded residence is in the district. I also own multiple homes and I spend time in all of them."

However, Bracy's Oakland neighbors say they haven't seen much of the former senator since he closed on his Clermont residence.

"His new wife didn't think much of this house," said one neighbor who remembers seeing people helping with the move. The neighbor agreed to speak off the record to avoid blowback from the senator. "Once he closed on that house, he moved out pretty quick."

Since then, the neighbor said the house isn't being maintained. They pointed to a gutter laying on the porch and said the lawn, which looked tidy on Monday, routinely gets overgrown, with weeds "as tall as me" before they're cut down. Another neighbor, who told VoxPopuli he hadn't seen Bracy in at least a month, once volunteered to mow Bracy's yard just to keep it neat.

A misuse of funds?

Thompson also claimed that Bracy used campaign funds to rent Winter Garden’s Garden Theatre for the Friday premiere of the crime-thriller movie that he and his wife wrote, directed, produced and acted in, called Ponder.

Bracy’s campaign expense report for the first quarter shows his campaign spent $532.50 to rent the Garden Theatre on March 11, 2024. His campaign treasurer, Shelby Green, who has worked with Bracy for years, did not seem to know anything about the expenditure, saying she was “caught off guard” by VoxPopuli’s call. She added, “I know he knows what you can and can’t spend campaign funds on.” 

Bracy said it was "completely legitimate and innovative to engage the community" with a movie premiere. His treasurer told VoxPopuli if it was a campaign event, it should have been clearly labeled as a "Bracy for Senate District 15" event.

Bracy defended the expense in a text to VoxPopuli, saying, “Our team used this premiere as a fundraising/community event, (sic) showcase local talent and a grassroots effort to raise community engagement. I talked about the movement we are starting A Better Me. A Better you. A Better Us as well as raised money for our campaign at the premiere. 

“I talked about our upcoming movie The Ocoee Massacre as movies will be a part of how I engage this community going forward. It is completely legitimate and innovative to engage the community in this way and I look forward to doing more non-traditional, groundbreaking projects like this to bring our community together.” 

However, none of the promotional material for Ponder mentioned Bracy’s senate campaign or that the premiere was a fundraiser for the campaign. Instead, the event was marketed on Instagram and Eventbrite as a “formal attire required,” red carpet movie premiere that was “bringing Hollywood to Orlando.”

In a follow-up call, Green said that if it had actually been a campaign event, it should have been labeled as a “Bracy for Senate District 15” event. 

“It should have been made clear,” Green said, adding that she planned to "have a conversation" with Bracy so that she did not put herself in professional “jeopardy.” 

Bracy sent a text Monday to VoxPopuli to say he reimbursed his campaign $500 for the Garden Theatre rental.

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