Rebekah Jones, who was fired from her job with Florida’s health department in 2020 and then gained notoriety for making unsubstantiated accusations that Governor Ron DeSantis’s administration was fudging the state’s Covid-19 numbers, won the Democratic nomination for Congress in the state’s Panhandle region on Tuesday.
As of 9:30 p.m., Jones had 62.3 percent of the vote compared to her opponent, Peggy Schiller, who received 37.7 percent of the vote in North Florida’s first congressional district, according to the Florida Division of Elections. The Associated Press called the race for Jones at 8:54 p.m.
Jones will face Republican Matt Gaetz in November’s general election.
Jones’s victory comes one day after a Florida appeals court ruled that she could remain on the ballot. In early August, a Leon County circuit judge disqualified Jones from the primary ballot because records showed she hadn’t been registered as a Democrat for a full year while living for a short period in Maryland. Documents showed that Jones initially registered as a Democrat in Maryland, changed her registration to “unaffiliated” last June, and then switched back to Democrat last August, according to a USA Today-Florida newspaper report.
Jones claimed that she only registered to vote in Maryland once, as a Democrat. She said the other voter registration changes were not done by her, the paper reported. A Florida election law passed last year requires candidates in partisan elections to be registered as a member of their party for a full year before qualifying begins in June.
In its ruling Monday, the three-judge 1st District Court of Appeals panel ruled that “the veracity of a duly qualified candidate’s sworn party affiliation” cannot be challenged and used as a basis for disqualification. The underlying law “provides no express authority to disqualify a party candidate if she was not in fact a registered party member during the 365-day window,” the panel said, according to Politico.
Jones, a former website dashboard manager for the Florida Department of Health, was fired in May 2020 for “multiple performance issues.” She became a minor political celebrity and a left-wing heroine after she claimed that she was targeted for refusing to manipulate data to justify DeSantis’s plan to reopen the state. She appeared on national TV, amassed an army of more than 380,000 Twitter followers, was the subject of glowing profiles in mainstream news outlets, launched her own Covid tracker, and raised a half million dollars online.
But her credibility soon crumbled as her personal life came under scrutiny, and she was accused of peddling wild conspiracy theories. In May, a Florida inspector general’s report found “insufficient evidence” or no evidence that Jones was asked to falsify the state’s Covid data, as she had claimed. The report exonerated state officials whom Jones had accused of wrongdoing.
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