Jenna Persons qualifies for ballot by petition
No problems here: A ban on fundraising during Session does not affect Jenna Persons, who is seeking to replace term-limited Republican Heather Fitzenhagen in House District 78.

The Fort Myers hopes to succeed Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen.

Fort Myers Republican Jenna Persons gathered enough petition signatures to qualify for the ballot in House District 78.

“I am honored to have the support of so many hard-working Southwest Floridians,” she said.

Persons submitted enough valid petitions to make the ballot. That means Persons won’t dip into her significant campaign account for a qualifying fee.

To date, the attorney has raised $209,475 for her run in the open House district, where she hopes to succeed Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen.

Roger Lolly, Persons’ chief rival for the Republican nomination, has raised $46,425 but also chipped in $140,000 in a candidate loan. A third Republican in the race, Charlie Lynch, has raised $2,945. Democrat Shawn Williams has raised $6,474.

Persons and Lolly filed in February 2019 for the seat and election records show they intend to qualify by petition. The final deadline for submitting petitions was on May 11 and elections offices are in the process of validating signatures. The petition process allows candidates to make the ballot without paying a $1,782 fee to qualify as a partisan candidate in a House district.

Florida elections officials have allowed candidates for the first time ever this year to collect petitions digitally because of challenges presented by COVID-19 and the novel coronavirus impacting in person interactions.

Persons was confident constituents would take the time despite the pandemic to support her bid.

“I have been nothing short of inspired by folks across our community,” she said, “and I look forward to standing with them as we face the challenges ahead.”

Fitzenhagen is leaving office due to term limits and is now running for Congress.

The statehouse seat remains heavily Republican. Fitzenhagen won her fourth term in 2018 with greater than 59% of the vote over Democrat Parisima Taeb. The Fort Myers-centric seat is contained entirely within Lee County.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


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