Democratic voters select Shevrin Jones in SD 35

Shevrin Jones
Jones entered Tuesday night as the presumed frontrunner in the race.

Rep. Shevrin Jones all but assured himself a spot in the Senate Tuesday night, by securing the Democratic nomination in Senate District 35.

In the General Election, Jones will face nominal opposition from write-in candidate Darien Hill. Overwhelming weakness among write-in candidates and the district’s strong Democratic lean, however, will almost surely be enough to secure Jones the win.

He emerged from a six-person Democratic field Tuesday. Jones defeated former Sen. Daphne Campbell, former firefighter Wilbur Harbin, Miami Gardens City Council member Erhabor Ighodaro, former Rep. Cynthia Stafford and outgoing Rep. Barbara Watson.

According to Tuesday’s unofficial results, Jones earned 43% of the vote. Campbell is a distant second at 15.6%, followed by Watson at 14.9%, Ighodaro at 14.8%, Stafford at 10% and Harbin at 2%.

“I am honored to have earned the people’s trust as we keep fighting for the many communities who have felt attacked and forgotten in today’s Florida,” Jones said Tuesday evening.

“There’s no question that there’s more work to be done — from dismantling systemic injustice, to advocating for a people-first recovery from the ongoing public health and economic crises — and I look forward to lifting up the voices of hardworking Floridians as SD 35’s next State Senator.”

Senate Democratic Leader Designate Gary Farmer also issued a statement congratulating Jones and other winners in Democratic Senate primaries.

“There is no greater champion for his community than Rep. Shevrin Jones, who has fought for our public school students and education professionals, to ensure every Floridian has access to healthcare, and to put a stop to senseless gun violence that has claimed too many innocent lives,” he said.

Facing term limits in the House, Jones announced his run for the Senate in January 2019. He became the preferred choice among Democratic party leaders, courting endorsements from U.S. Reps. Alcee Hastings and Debbie Wasserman Schultz as well as state Sen. Perry Thurston.

Sen. Oscar Braynon II, who currently represents SD 35, is facing term limits this cycle. He endorsed Jones as his preferred successor as well.

Jones also led the field in money, making him the favorite heading into Tuesday.

Jones and Ighodaro sparred throughout the contest, with Jones and some pro-LGBTQ groups labeling Ighodaro as “homophobic.”

While campaigning for the Democratic nod, Ighodaro pushed a message that he would defend traditional family values in Tallahassee. Jones would be the first openly gay Senator in the state’s history.

Jones earned support Tuesday night from Equality Florida.

“Shevrin’s victory is a groundbreaking milestone as he becomes the first LGBTQ Florida State Senator and the highest-ranking Black LGBTQ official in Florida history,” said Joe Saunders, the group’s political director.

“Representation matters and this win gives LGBTQ Floridians our first seat at the table in the Florida Senate.”

The Miami-Dade Democratic Party also praised Jones’ win.

“Shevrin Jones has made history tonight,” said Steve Simeonidis, the party’s chair.

“Winning his primary today, he has taken one more step toward that moment in November, when he will be elected the first openly gay Black member of the Florida Senate. Miami-Dade Democrats are proud of the progress this represents and we are proud of Rep. Jones’ advocacy for all Floridians in Tallahassee.”

In addition to typical campaign hurdles, Jones also battled health issues during the campaign after testing positive for COVID-19. Jones documented his struggle with the virus via a daily diary posted to his Twitter account. In mid-July, he announced he had been cleared of the virus more than two weeks after testing positive.

Campbell, meanwhile, sought a return to the Senate after she was ousted from her SD 38 seat last cycle. Campbell was hit over several alleged ethical lapses during her last Senate run. This cycle, she falsely claimed she had never been a party to a civil lawsuit despite being named as a party in at least 10 different cases in Miami-Dade County.

The non-profit organization Farm Share was also forced to cancel a 2019 food distribution event after Campbell improperly linked the event to her campaign. Farm Share is a 501(c)(3) organization and is barred from participating in campaign events.

Days before the primary, a mysterious robocall appeared falsely alleging former President Barack Obama was endorsing Campbell. Obama did not endorse anyone in the contest.

Stafford mounted a Senate bid after being termed out of the House in 2018. She represented House District 109 for eight years after winning the seat in 2010.

Watson — who, like Jones, is also being term-limited out of the House — was a latecomer to the SD 35 contest. With five candidates already declared, Watson filed for the race just before the state’s June 12 qualifying deadline.

Harbin is a recently retired firefighter running his first political campaign. He retired as a battalion chief with Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue in early 2019.

The district covers parts of Broward and Miami-Dade counties including Miramar, West Park and Miami Gardens.

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to [email protected].


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