By Andrea Chu, 10 Tampa Bay WTSP
After facing some legal challenges, Rebekah Jones will officially have her name on the ballot for Florida Congressional District 1.
On Monday night, a day before the primary, an appeals court sided with the former Florida COVID data worker, reversing a previous lower-court ruling that had removed her from the race.
In Florida, candidates are required to have been registered voters for their party for at least a year before the qualification deadline in order to seek the nomination.
However, Jones, who was a registered Democrat, reportedly made a brief party swap in June 2021 when she changed her registration to unaffiliated with plans to run for the House seat as an Independent. This is what led Jones’ primary opponent, Peggy Schiller, to file a lawsuit challenging her eligibility for the race.
A lower court sided with Schiller, but was overruled by an appeals court on Monday, with judges citing that Florida law “provides no express authority to disqualify a party candidate if she was not in fact a registered party member during the 365-day window.”
“Rebekah Jones appreciates the speed and certainty of the Florida First District Court of Appeal in soundly rejecting her opponent’s last-minute litigation while the election was underway. The Voters now have the real opportunity to put Rebekah Jones on the General Election Ballot,” Jones’ lawyer, Benedict Kuehne, wrote in a statement.
Now, Jones and Schiller will face off to become the Democratic nominee in the heavily Republican district that covers Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton counties. In November, the winner will face off against the Republican nominee — who many predict will be incumbent U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz.
Jones received national attention when she raised questions about the state’s COVID-19 dashboard and claimed she was fired for exposing problems. The state said she was fired for insubordination after being reprimanded several times.
A state investigator’s report released in May concluded there was nothing to indicate that the Florida Department of Health had told Jones to falsify COVID-19 data and she wasn’t fired out of retaliation.
Jones is facing criminal charges after authorities said she illegally accessed the Department of Health’s computer system to send a message to 1,750 people and downloaded confidential data and saved it to her devices.