Rebekah Jones Disqualified from Running in Florida Democratic Primary




  • In Business
  • 2022-08-05 23:31:51Z
  • By National Review
 

Rebekah Jones, the former Florida health department staffer who gained notoriety in 2020 for falsely accusing Governor Ron DeSantis of fudging the state's Covid-19 numbers, will not be allowed to run in this month's congressional primary, a north Florida judge ruled on Friday.

Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper disqualified Jones from running in the August 23 primary because she hasn't been registered as a Democrat for a full year, according to a report from USA Today newspapers in Florida.

According to a lawsuit brought by Peggy Schiller, a Democratic activist and Jones's opponent in the race for the first congressional district, Jones was not qualified to run as a Democrat. While living in Maryland in 2021, Jones registered to vote as a Democrat in April, but then changed her party registration to "unaffiliated" in June of that year. Documents show that Jones changed her affiliation back to Democrat on August 11, 2021, according to the newspaper report.

Jones claimed that she only registered to vote in Maryland once, as a Democrat. She said the other voter registration changes were not done by her, the paper reported.

A Florida election law passed last year requires candidates in partisan elections to be registered as a member of their party for a full year before qualifying begins in June.

"I don't think I can come to any conclusion other than Ms. Jones was not a registered member of the Democratic Party for a period of two months 2021," Cooper said during a virtual hearing.

Jones can try to appeal the ruling, but if it is upheld, Schiller will automatically win the Democratic nomination. Ballots in the race have already been mailed.

Jones, a former website dashboard manager for the Florida Department of Health, was fired in May 2020 for "multiple performance issues." She became a minor political celebrity and a left-wing heroine after she claimed that she was targeted for refusing to manipulate data to justify DeSantis's plan to reopen the state. She appeared on national TV, amassed an army of more than 380,000 Twitter followers, was the subject of glowing profiles in mainstream news outlets, launched her own Covid tracker, and raised a half million dollars online.

But her credibility soon crumbled, and she has since been exposed as a peddler of conspiracy theories. Emails obtained by Florida news outlets showed that rather than being directed to "manually change data to drum up support for the plan to reopen," Jones had been directed by the state's epidemiologist to temporarily disable the ability to export data from a state dashboard so the data could be verified and matched to other sources. She was given the go-ahead to re-enable the data after less than an hour.

Since her initial claims, Jones's personal life - including multiple run-ins with the law - has come under scrutiny. In December 2020, Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents executed a search warrant at her home, seizing computer equipment as part of an investigation into an unauthorized breach of a state emergency system. Investigators traced an unauthorized message sent through the system to Jones's IP address.

In May, a Florida inspector general's report found "insufficient evidence" or no evidence that Jones was asked to falsify the state's Covid data. The report exonerated state officials whom Jones had accused of wrongdoing.

Jones filed to run for Congress in north Florida in an effort to unseat Republican Matt Gaetz. She initially filed to run as an independent candidate but changed to run as a Democrat on August 12, 2021, one day after her voter registration changed in Maryland.

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