Miami Gardens Democratic Sen. Shevrin Jones won re-election to a second Florida Senate term Tuesday, defeating two fellow former educators from within his party’s ranks, including one who drew rebukes for comments critics labeled homophobic.
With early and mail-in voting totals tabulated and all 239 precincts reporting at 10:50 p.m., Jones secured 68% of the vote from early voting compared to 17% for former Miami Gardens Councilman Erhabor Ighodaro and 15% for business consultant and entrepreneur Pitchie “Peachy” Escarment.
Since Jones faces no challengers in the General Election, he won re-election outright.
“I am so honored and humbled to once again earn the trust of our incredible, vibrant South Florida communities,” Jones said in a statement after his win. “There is much work ahead as our democracy and fundamental rights hang in the balance. This moment calls for each of us to do our part, and I’m committed to keep fighting for the people, just as I’ve done throughout my public service.”
Described by U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist as “one of the brightest political young stars in Florida politics today,” Jones leveraged eight years in the Statehouse into a landslide Senate victory in 2020. He repeated the feat Tuesday, securing Senate District 34, which covers a large portion of northeast Miami-Dade County, including the municipalities of Bay Harbor Islands, Miami Beach, North Miami, North Miami Beach and Opa-locka and Miami Gardens, the most populous Black city in Florida.
Since winning a seat in the chamber, Jones maintained a positive presence and can-do attitude, working across the aisle to pass measures like SB 236, which expanded aid eligibility for children with developmental delays in public schools, backing bills to improve how the state treats some of its most underserved people, and continuing to bring money back to his district.
But he didn’t just get along. After consecutive Legislative Sessions in which GOP lawmakers pushed through measures to tighten voting strictures, limit classroom and workplace discussion of race, gender and sexuality, and draw a new congressional map that now faces legal challenges over its alleged erasure of Black-performing districts, Jones went on the offensive.
In February, he launched Operation BlackOut, an initiative to boost vote-by-mail registration among Black and Brown progressives who are registered to vote but don’t. He was also among the chief organizers of Stay Woke Go Vote, which among other things aims to draw attention to voting-related actions by Gov. Ron DeSantis and other Republicans.
His platform priorities included curbing gun violence, community recovery from the pandemic, investing in education and, in keeping with his activities in the leadup to Election Day, fighting for civil rights and defending Black communities from police brutality, discrimination and “systemic marginalization.”
Ighodaro, whose wife now sits on the Miami Gardens Council, was among five Democratic candidates Jones faced in 2020. During that cycle’s contest, Ighodaro attracted censure for anti-LGBTQ remarks some considered to be indirectly aimed at Jones, the first openly gay Black lawmaker elected to the Legislature.
“There is an image that God says a marriage should look like, that a family should look like, and that’s what we’re going to fight for,” Ighodaro said during a campaign event.
Jones took that as a personal dig, but he said it was evidence Ighodaro lacked the focus necessary to deliver for constituents.
“People are looking for somebody to go to Tallahassee to be their champion, not their judge,” he said on Twitter.
This cycle, Ighodaro doubled down on his prior comments in an interview with the Miami Herald and took aim at the transgender community, whose members sometimes ask to be called by specific pronouns, frequently “they” and “them.”
“I don’t believe that people should not recognize the difference between male and female,” he said. “I don’t believe in 110 pronouns. No!”
Through the end of July, Ighodaro raised almost $84,000 between his campaign account and political committee, Reignbow Florida — organized in September 2020 as “Reignbow Family Values” — with much of those gains coming from real estate businesses, education professionals and the clergy, as well as a $26,000 self-loan.
He had about $11,000 of that left by Aug. 1 after heavy spending on consulting, outreach and advertising, including radio spots on local Haitian-language stations.
Escarment, who founded four companies in Florida, according to the Division of Corporations, had a similar list of priorities reflecting issues affecting the majority Black community of SD 34, including a shortage of affordable housing, criminal justice reform, education and mending ties between law enforcement and communities of color.
Her SD 34 candidacy marked the first time she made a run at public office.
Since filing to run for office in February, Escarment collected nearly $24,000, more than 83% of which came through self-loans or donations from family. As of July 29, she had about $4,000 remaining after covering advertising and signage costs and refunding herself for more than half the money she added to her campaign coffers.
Neither challenger held a candle to Jones, who raised $622,000 through the end of July. He had just $30,000 left in two weeks from the Primary after huge rounds of spending on campaign mailers, digital advertising, travel and consulting.
He also amassed an impressive collection of endorsements from leaders across South Florida, including Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, Miami Gardens Mayor Rodney Harris and Opa-locka Mayor Veronica Williams.
Groups backing him included SAVE Action PAC, LGBTQ Victory Fund and the Florida chapter of the Service Employees International Union.