Judge tosses Rebekah Jones from congressional race
Rebekah Jones testifies in court. Image via Zoom.

Screen Shot 2022-08-05 at 1.52.14 PM
Peggy Schiller is set to win the Democratic Primary by default.

A Florida judge disqualified Rebekah Jones from challenging Rep. Matt Gaetz for his seat in Congress.

Leon Circuit Court Judge John Cooper from the bench said Jones could not run as a Democrat because she had not been a registered Democrat for 365 days before qualifying as a candidate for Congress.

“I don’t think I can come to any conclusion other than this,” Cooper said. “Jones was not a registered member of the Democratic Party almost two months during this period.”

This means Peggy Schiller wins the Democratic Primary in Florida’s 1st Congressional District by default, though Jones will likely appeal the ruling. Her name will appear on the ballot but votes cast for her will not count.

The hearing featured some tense moments.

While issuing his decision, Cooper had to kick Jones out of the trial for a short period for interrupting his ruling. He allowed her back in minutes later, and she said she believed her Zoom software was muted when she shouted back at his statements and said she had proof her identity had been hacked.

When Cooper allowed her back into hearing, he told her she could not so much as mouth gripes or he would boot her from the trial again.

The decision makes Jones the latest candidate undone by a new Florida law requiring long-standing and consistent membership of a political party. Republican Ashley Guy dropped out of a state House race this year over similar concerns, as did Democrat Curtis Calabrese from a South Florida open congressional race.

Republican Austin Brownfield was also booted by a Pinellas County judge from a state House race because he was registered without party affiliation a year ahead of qualifying. Cooper cited the ruling in issuing his own determination about Jones.

Schiller, Jones’ Democratic Primary opponent, sued in Leon County Circuit Court to throw Jones from the ballot. Schiller’s attorney. Juan-Carlos Planas, a former state Representative, argued in court that Jones cannot run because of a new state law requiring candidates to be a member of a party for a year ahead of qualifying as a candidate.

Jones during her own testimony argued that outside individuals fraudulently sent in the paperwork to change her status as a Maryland voter.

“Someone else attempted to change my voter registration,” she said.

Planas pointed toward a number of Federal Election Commission filings where Jones identified herself as an independent or an unaffiliated candidate for Congress. Additionally, Jones initially announced she would run for Congress without party affiliation, then changed plans based on the new law passed by the Legislature and ran as a Democrat out of necessity.

Jones attorney Ben Kuehne asked her about that when she was on the stand, and stressed Florida law historically allowed candidates to run without party affiliation regardless of whether they were registered members of a party. That has frequently been the route of candidates who want to advance to a general election without winning a party Primary Election.

Jones said she didn’t want to run with the confines of partisanship.

“I wanted all voters to feel like they could talk to me and I would listen to them,” she said.

None of this addressed, however, the fact she lived in Maryland when she filed her federal candidacy paperwork, or that her individual party registration in that state wavered between Democrat and unaffiliated.

Planas noted that the period Jones’ registration switched from Democrat to unaffiliated in Maryland coincides with the time when she publicly said she would run without party affiliation. It was changed back to Democrat at the time Jones said she would run for the Democratic nomination.

“It makes no sense, the argument she is making,” Planas said.

Regardless of whether Jones consciously or intentionally had her registration changed within a year of qualifying, she was still not in compliance with the law, Planas said. “She was not a member of the Democratic Party in Maryland.”

Kuehne argued the law doesn’t rely on party registration but simply says candidates must be members of a party. Many states don’t even have voters register as members of a party.

“A member of a political party is not established by voter registration, although that is helpful,” Kuehne said.

But Cooper said the timing of Jones’ party registration changes proved too convenient to believe she was the subject of a hack or other political malpractice.

He said only a political party can determine that a candidate is not a member, and unlike other cases, the Florida Democratic Party isn’t a plaintiff in the case against Jones.

Jones, a former data scientist with the Florida Department of Health, drew national attention claiming she was fired for refusing to manipulate COVID-19 data, but an Inspector General in May determined her allegations were unfounded and unsubstantiated.

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]


17 comments

  • Impeach Biden

    August 5, 2022 at 6:07 pm

    Oh this is rich. DeSantis knew all along that she was a nut.

    Vote BLUE if you think Jones is a scientist.
    Vote BLUE if you think Jones is a Democrat.
    Vote BLUE if you want to see Jones arrest record at LSU.
    Vote BLUE if you are a young college student and want to get freaky with the teacher assistant (Jones).
    Vote BLUE if you want an “A” in the class that Jones taught but watch out she might give you a child.
    Vote BLUE if you want to be in Jones next romance novel.
    Vote BLUE if you want Jones to design a web page for you and post provocative photos.

    Reply

    • adphotoman

      August 5, 2022 at 7:44 pm

      Yeah, it’s awesome. “I was hacked and and the dog ate my homework and and the sun was in my eyes and and I tripped on a rock.” This is not what our national congresspersons should be like. We’ve got enough excuse makers, finger pointers and whiners already.

      Reply

    • Joe Corsin

      August 5, 2022 at 8:18 pm

      – Vote RED for far right propaganda and dangerous lies
      – Vote RED for domestic terrorists hopped up on phoney American religion…AkA Vanilla ISIS
      – Vote RED for con men and grifters who exist only to shovel money to the rich
      – Vote RED for obstruction and sabotage of government
      – Vote RED for New York billionaires
      – Vote RED for right wing police state
      – Vote RED for forced birth of meth babies and crack babies

      Reply

      • Impeach Biden

        August 5, 2022 at 8:27 pm

        Of course the Joe and Elliott show would vote for that unstable person. Those two are probably as nutty as she is.

        Reply

        • Joe Corsin

          August 7, 2022 at 9:38 am

          ^ Vote RED for idiots like this guy

          Reply

  • nail

    August 5, 2022 at 6:57 pm

    One of the Christina’s Russian trolls I’m sure.
    I have not affinity for Jones but she received a judgment of a Whistleblower Status, not an easy thing to do especially with all the evidence she had… what desantis and his ass lickers have to say is the last thing any normal person would listen to.. Funny, thought the state auditor released a report that over 8,000 death were missing from the FL Covid site and he “does not know if he can retrieve them. same the voters registration number.
    Since desantis the authoritarian, has a propensity for making sure what happens it is because of him, thats who we can blame.

    Can’t wait for the FBI, DOJ and the grand Jurys indictments die in Dec that have been running for almost a year to give us a glimpse of the “corrupt republican party in FL” Like we already didn’t know, but besides a ex sentor who sponsored ghost candidates and the over $600,000 they found coming from FL to support the ghost and their benefactors, desantis ignorance, no not ignorance, flat out refusal to answer questions about them have finally caught up with him.

    Yesterday, oh yesterday. Did he ever make a huge mistake. it will be the final nail in his coffin.

    Charlie Crist îs up 13 points today. It seems FL voters are not all republicans are not all that stupid, I knew the story has changed in the Villages. But even there the numbers have not changed, when we personally oversaw 20 individuals change their party and it never showed up. Over 1 1/2 months ago. Wonder what happened to them.
    desantis better sharpen his lying skills, he getting sloppy like his mentor.

    Reply

    • Tom

      August 7, 2022 at 3:46 pm

      Rass my dumb ass,.

      WhAt universe are you from?
      No one of reputation had chameleon up by 13? How stupid are you? Your bizarre threats, incoherent statements and demented thinking is ignorant.

      SPR has America’s Gov up plus 3, more like 6 and up 10 on N Fraud.
      DeSantis wins 60%.

      Rubio is up huge, plus 10 vs Dum Demings. Rubio brilliantly forced vote on Dums today, 50 Dum senators refused to protect only women in pregnancy. Everyone knows men cannot give birth. Besides ultra left and Senate Dems.

      Repubs pick up 4 new House seats in Florida, super majorities in legislature. School board seats, county etc.

      Stamp it red!

      Rass blow it out of my ass! U are such a moron, liar and just ignorant. Go call Cardenas and his whale wife Navarro
      Who you promoting next, Lez Cheney? Her ass wipe father, blow up some more U S soldiers limbs, bastards.

      You are a idiot!

      Reply

    • Tom

      August 7, 2022 at 3:48 pm

      Such a dick head!
      Rass my ass!
      So stupid.

      Reply

  • Just a comment

    August 5, 2022 at 7:41 pm

    While I was skipping and passing up the reading. I see Peggy was disqualified or fired

    Reply

    • Just a comment

      August 5, 2022 at 7:42 pm

      While I was skipping and passing up the reading. I see Peggy was disqualified or fired oh the other one what’s her name

      Reply

  • Tom

    August 5, 2022 at 10:26 pm

    Wench, Stench, Rebekah Jones.
    Nikki Fraud, Soros written all over it.
    Crock of manure!
    Jones needs to be indicted, loser Warren the ex states attorney loser can represent her.
    Soros Manchurians on the run.
    America’s Gov wins again.

    Reply

    • Joe Corsin

      August 7, 2022 at 9:39 am

      ^ Vote RED for neo nazi trolls like this guy

      Reply

  • David in Shoreline

    August 5, 2022 at 10:44 pm

    Rebekah dear, DeSantis got you and he got you good. You lose. Stop humiliating yourself. It’s so cringe.

    Reply

    • Joe Corsin

      August 7, 2022 at 10:40 am

      ^ Vote RED for far right liars like this babbling brook

      Reply

      • adphotoman

        August 7, 2022 at 10:49 am

        Do you ever offer anything of substance? Are you seven years old?

        Reply

  • Matthew Lusk

    August 6, 2022 at 12:52 pm

    I am a Republican and believe the “one year registered for the party” is an unconstitutional limiting rule barring ballot access. I do not agree with Jones political positions at all, but will support her if she appeals the ruling. Candidates need access to rout out the criminals.

    Reply

  • Just a comment

    August 10, 2022 at 4:49 pm

    Really it is all about pushing phycology in your face morality love concepts while placing a bus in your face

    Reply

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