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Florida's DeSantis seeks to disqualify judge in Disney case

FILE PHOTO: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis delivers remarks at The Heritage Foundation event in Maryland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lawyers for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican mulling a 2024 presidential run, are asking that a federal judge be disqualified from overseeing a dispute between DeSantis and Walt Disney Co, questioning the judge's impartiality in the case.

Lawyers for DeSantis, who is being sued for allegedly targeting Disney for company leadership's political views, filed a motion on Friday in Tallahassee, Florida, asking U.S. District Judge Mark Walker be recused in the case.

Disney sued DeSantis in April for allegedly "weaponizing" state government in retaliation for the company's criticism of a law that banned classroom discussion of sexuality and gender identity with younger children. Opponents labeled the measure the "don't say gay" law.

The company alleged DeSantis rallied the Republican-controlled legislature to strike back at "woke Disney" and seize control of an administrative district, created in 1967, that helped Disney develop theme parks and resorts. The district, originally known as Reedy Creek Improvement District, was also named as a defendant.

DeSantis' lawyers argued on Friday that the judge overseeing that case demonstrated potential partiality while handling separate cases in which the judge mentioned Disney as an example of state retaliation.

Considering Walker's statements, "the court's impartiality in this matter might reasonably be questioned," DeSantis' lawyers said in the their motion.

DeSantis is expected to jump in to the Republican presidential nomination contest in the coming days and could be a potentially tough challenger to front-runner Donald Trump. The eventual Republican nominee is expected to challenge President Joe Biden, a Democrat, in November 2024.

(Reporting by Jason Lange in Washington; Editing by Matthew Lewis)