TAVARES — In the campaign for a Tavares City Council seat, one side has accused the other of engaging in deceit.
Roy Stevenson, incumbent Republican candidate for Tavares City Council Seat 3, said Walter Price, who is his challenger and the leader of the Lake County Republican Party, misled Lake County Sheriff Peyton Grinnell when asking Grinnell for an endorsement last month.
“He (the sheriff) got deceived,” Stevenson said. “Sheriff Grinnell was totally, 100% deceived into doing that.”
Price did not reply to multiple requests for comment.
Grinnell said Price initially told him that Stevenson was non-party affiliated when asking for a photo endorsement in early September.
“I told him (Price), ‘If you’re running against an NPA, you have my support,’ ” said Grinnell, who also is a Republican.
Price met Grinnell at the Sheriff’s Office and took a photo with him while holding a campaign sign. On Sept. 15, Price posted the photo to Facebook and thanked the sheriff for the endorsement.
Grinnell said it was about a full week later that he received a call from a friend who told him the truth of the matter: Stevenson is a Republican, not NPA, and is the incumbent in the race.
Grinnell said he wasn’t sure if it really was deception or if Price may have somehow not known, despite Price’s position as party chairman, that Stevenson was a Republican.
The sheriff made an effort immediately to reach out to Stevenson and explain what happened. The two took a photo together, which Stevenson posted to Facebook in the same fashion Price had weeks before.
Grinnell said that he was happy to set things right with Stevenson, as he typically would not set foot into a race between two fellow Republicans. The only time he has was in the race between Ross Spano and Scott Franklin for the Congressional District 15 primary race earlier this year.
Franklin won that primary with a little over 51% of the vote.
Stevenson said he doesn’t know why Price had told Grinnell he was an NPA, but Stevenson said that it made little sense for the Lake County Republican Party chairman to miss that.
Stevenson had also been excluded from a Lake Republican voter guide that included all other Republican candidates on this year’s ballot. He also said his sign had disappeared from the front of the Republican headquarters in Tavares.
Stevenson said that since he doesn’t know what’s going on behind the scenes, it wouldn’t be appropriate to say why Price did what he did, but he added that he feels it must either be malice or incompetence.
“Imagine, if you put that little effort into discovering if I’m Republican or not, imagine how little effort you’ll put into issues in the city that aren’t in your neighborhood,” Stevenson said.