Conservative activist Tara Jenner fails to qualify against Jonathan Martin in open SD 33 seat
Tara Jenner is not going to protest her disqualification.

Tara Jenner
Late in the day, her status was moved from active to "did not qualify."

Conservative activist Tara Jenner flew to Tallahassee to qualify to challenge Lee County Republican Party Chair Jonathan Martin for a state Senate seat that recently opened.

But later in the evening, the Division of Elections reported she had not qualified in Senate District 33.

“I will look into it and double check a few things and go from there,” she said. “At this point, I can’t panic about it one way or the other.”

She hopes any issue with her documentation is curable when offices open next week.

“I’m tired of, frankly, the establishment machine doing end-runs around the people and then ignoring them down the line,” Jenner told Florida Politics earlier in the day.

Jenner traveled to Tallahassee on Thursday and said she paid a qualifying fee Friday.

On top of Jenner’s entry, write-in candidate Robert Valenta did qualify. That means even though only Republicans have filed for the deep red seat, the Primary would be closed to independent, Democratic, and third-party voters. Without a write-in General Election candidate, the race would be open to all voters in the district.

Jenner’s entry appeared to be an interesting turn of events following news that shook up Florida politics this week.

Midweek, news broke that the first-term Rodrigues would not seek re-election so he could take a still-undisclosed place within the DeSantis administration. That’s rumored to be Chancellor of the Board of Governors, a post now held by Marshall Criser, but it’s also been discussed in Southwest Florida that Rodrigues may want to be president of Florida Gulf Coast University, where he works now.

Regardless, the immediate endorsement of Martin both by DeSantis and GOP Senate leadership through the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee seemed to establish Martin as an unbeatable successor for Rodrigues.

But Jenner said as soon as she learned the position was open, she did not want Martin to get the job.

Martin has faced some criticism within the Lee County GOP for pushing for the party to endorse a slate of Republican candidates for School Board despite multiple Republicans running for some seats.

At a recent meeting, Jenner’s son, Simon Susko, was livestreaming video for 10 minutes before Martin grabbed Jenner’s phone from her hand, an event still viewable on Jenner’s Facebook page.

Martin addressed the matter in an interview with Florida Politics, where he said non-Republic Executive Committee members have never been allowed to livestream what took place at meetings.

Jenner said her son on Wednesday filed a criminal complaint with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office accusing Martin of misdemeanor assault.

As far as a platform, Jenner said the rush to Tallahassee to qualify means she hasn’t yet brought a website online, but she holds strong positions on state rights and education. That includes wanting an end to federal Department of Education influence over state over education curricula.

Jenner also wants a requirement for all school districts to have a zero baseline itemized budget that’s available for a forensic audit. That would provide direct accountability and transparency to taxpayers, she said.

She’s also an advocate of “constitutional carry,” and believes Florida residents should not need a permit to carry concealed weapons and that residents should also have the option to open carry weapons.

The home-school mother served in the Air Force from 1989 to 1999, where she served as a JAG officer. Jenner notes that’s a similar resume to that of DeSantis before his election to Congress.

It’s unclear if Jenner will appeal with the Division of Elections.

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]


One comment

  • Frankie Peters

    June 17, 2022 at 10:51 pm

    Jonathan Martin is a locally connected Lee County swamp rat. It’s great to see real Republicans step up and challenge these establishment RINOS. Let’s dismantle the MacGregor corridor business as usual crowd.

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