Two outsized characters, two legal battles in Matt Gaetz, Rebekah Jones CD 1 race
To the surprise of no one, Matt Gaetz takes CD 1.

gaetz jones
Political observers are watching CD 1 more for the characters and intrigue than the political implications.

No matter who wins the highly anticipated race for Florida’s 1st Congressional District, the Northwest Florida seat will be represented by a lawmaker dogged by legal challenges.

Incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz is eyeing a fourth term in Congress and hopes to move past an ongoing criminal investigation into sex trafficking allegations. Meanwhile, Democratic challenger Rebekah Jones faces an uphill battle to unseat him in the heavily Republican seat while preparing for a trial about whether she hacked a Florida Department of State messaging system.

Gaetz, already a conservative star for his vocal support of former President Donald Trump, has dug his heels further into the fringes of his party since he was accused of violating sex trafficking laws by paying for a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl. He denies the allegations — and reports suggest prosecutors won’t charge him — but he has fallen out of favor with the Republican establishment, providing Democrats a possible window to unseat him.

Gaetz has aligned himself with figures like Georgia U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has promoted conspiracies and who falsely claims Trump won the 2020 election.

But Jones, who already had to fight in court to appear on the Democratic Primary ballot after briefly living in Maryland and registering as an independent, is in more immediate legal peril than Gaetz.

Jones rose to prominence when she was fired from DOH for insubordination, which she claims was over a refusal to manipulate COVID-19 data. Since then, prosecutors have accused Jones of hacking into an emergency messaging system, and law enforcement carried out a highly publicized raid on her home. Jones rejected a plea deal earlier this year, putting her on the path to a Jan. 23 trial date.

Last month, the pair sat down for a locally televised 30-minute debate, which highlighted their differences on abortion and veteran health care.

Jones promises to secure funding for a new Veterans Affairs hospital in Northwest Florida. Meanwhile, Gaetz has advocated for abolishing the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs after years of controversy at the agency. His plan would provide veterans with government-funded health care through private doctors.

Political observers are watching the CD 1 race more for the characters and intrigue than the race’s competitive nature — or lack thereof. The only public polling in the race has shown either Jones leading by 6 percentage points or Gaetz leading by 2 points. But the pair of surveys come from The Political Matrix/The Listener Group, which touts its use of “real data” but frequently produces outlying polls that favor Democrats.

FiveThirtyEight gives Gaetz a more than 99% chance of winning the race and predicts a final margin of 65%-35%.

CD 1 is Florida’s westernmost congressional district, covering Escambia, Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties and the western half of Walton County.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


  • Bob Evans

    November 5, 2022 at 12:17 pm

    I do not like Gaetz’s politics but the idea of insurance cards for veterans is appealing. The problem is, the Department of Veterans Affairs might tell you who you can go see and they might be shills for the VA. They might pick outside doctors who would fk the veterans in some way. It would have to be a program that makes it to where you can see anyone and get anything done… unlike VA who only provides a few shills and does almost nothing for anyone. Many need surgery for pain and other issues and VA will not do it, plus vets dying because people at the VA are so gd sorry, overloaded, and don’t give a fk. No accountability, minimal financial resources, pit of charlatans.

    • Suzy

      November 7, 2022 at 8:01 pm

      I agree that new solutions for the VA should be explored. The old system has been broken for a long time. But what kind of senator do you want representing you? Someone with no policy agenda beyond trolling social media and owning the libs? Or someone who, for all her flaws, is going to behave like a civilized citizen working for her constituents on real world issues that affect them?

Comments are closed.


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