A Leon County Circuit Court judge ruled on Friday that: Rebecca Jones He failed to run as a Democrat in the August 23 primary election.
Leon County Circuit Court Judge John Cooper disqualified Jones as a candidate at the conclusion of Friday’s virtual hearing. Lawsuits Filed by Her Democratic Opponents Florida 1st Congressional District, Peggy Schiller.
“It’s not a happy decision,” Cooper said in explaining his ruling.
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Florida’s election law passed last year requires anyone running for a party office to register as a party member for a year before qualifying begins in June.
Jones gave her a statement Campaign Facebook page On Friday, she said she would appeal the ruling.
“We will be appealing soon, and voters can rest assured that we will not allow Peggy Schiller, her Republican attorney, or anyone else to steal this election from voters,” Jones said.
Syrah retired corporate lawyer A woman who lives in Walton County and is active in her local Democratic Party also released a statement about her. campaign facebook page He said he was satisfied with the verdict.
“I think justice has been served,” Schiller said.
Schiller said Jones would be disqualified under the same legal claims by Republicans if he won the Aug. 23 primary.
“I always wanted to do this campaign to beat the lame excuses against our representative, Matt Gates,” Schiller said. I hope the voters of the 1st congressional district will unite with me to achieve our goals.”
Florida’s first congressional district covers northwest Florida and is home to the Republican Party. Rep. Matt Gates currently holds the seat, but faces the first well-funded challenges from former FedEx executive and Vietnam veteran Mark Lombardo and former military pilot Greg Merck. .
Gates reacted to it Ruling on Twitter by saying He didn’t congratulate voters for being denied the choice, and calling for Jones’ defeat in court rather than in the primary was “small” for Schiller.
“That said, it’s clear that the judge was following the law, and Rebecca Jones appears to be a fraud in virtually everything she does.
Jones became a national After she was fired from the Florida Department of Health in 2020.
She accused the top state health official of firing her. Refused to manipulate COVID-19 data Support the push to reopen Florida after months of quarantine. She has made several appearances in state media where government officials have warned against falsifying national data. questioned her claims From the beginning.
The state inspector general gave her whistleblower status, but a state investigation completed earlier this year there was no evidence to support her claims.
What the lawsuit against Rebekah Jones alleges
of Syrah allegation of lawsuit Having lived in Maryland in 2021, Jones registered to vote in the state as a Democrat in April 2021. He then changed his party affiliation to ‘independent’ on June 11, 2021.
Documents show Jones changed her affiliation back to the Democratic Party on Aug. 11. This meant Jones missed her registration requirements by about two months.
Jones testified that she had only registered as a Democrat in Maryland once, and that the other two changes submitted to Maryland were not made by her.
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Jones’ attorney, Ben Kuehne, noted in Jones’ testimony that Jones became widely known after her dismissal.
Ms Jones said she moved to Maryland after receiving death threats.
In an explanation of the ruling, Cooper said it wasn’t impossible for someone to hack Jones or use her information to change her voter registration, but the weight of other evidence weighed down. Therefore, the possibility is low.
Jones submitted to run for parliament I ran as an independent candidate for the Federal Election Commission on June 25, 2021. She changed her candidacy to Democrat on August 12, 2021 at her FEC, the day after Jones’ voter registration in Maryland was reverted to Democrat.
Kuehne also argued that Jones’ decision to run as an independent in June 2021 before becoming the Democratic nominee in August 2021 had nothing to do with her individual party affiliation remaining in the Democratic Party.
Cooper said he did not accept the legal argument.
One key piece of information Kuehne repeatedly highlighted was the fact that two changes Jones said she did not make to Maryland’s voter registration did not include her middle name.
JC Planus, Shiller’s attorney and former Republican state legislator who left the Republican Party after Donald Trump’s election, said Jones’ claims did not stand up to scrutiny.
“Somebody has all of her information and is trying to discredit her by making her an independent registered voter in Maryland, while at the same time she is applying to run for Congress as an independent. and telling the press that she is running as an independent, she doesn’t hold water at all,” Pranas said.
Cooper said he was initially persuaded by the name discrepancies on the forms until he saw testimony that he did not prepare the FEC forms and Jones’ own campaign forms himself.
“At some point, circumstantial evidence can prove a crime,” Cooper said. “…There is no credible evidence that anyone else is doing this, or that anyone else has any motives. there is evidence of.”
Cooper said he did not enjoy having to rule the way he did and could not make choices based on evidence.
“I don’t think we can draw any conclusions other than that Ms. Jones has not been a registered member of the Democratic Party for nearly two months during this (critical) period,” Cooper said.
As Cooper explained the ruling, Jones interrupted him by saying that he could provide documents proving that she had been hacked. The judge quickly kicked her out of her Zoom hearing, saying she didn’t allow anyone to speak during her ruling, especially at the party in this case.
Cooper had Jones returned to the hearing with instructions that Jones was not authorized to speak. When she was allowed to return to the virtual hearing, Jones said she didn’t realize she had been mute when she was speaking earlier.
Jones can appeal the ruling, and Cooper said it will issue a final order in the case by Monday, giving Jones maximum time to appeal.
Ballots for the Shiller and Jones campaign have already been mailed to voters.
If the First District Court of Appeals affirms the decision, Schiller will automatically win the Democratic nomination on August 23, and votes cast for Jones will not count.
Jim Little can be reached at [email protected] and 850-208-9827.
This article originally appeared in the Pensacola News Journal. Rebekah Jones was disqualified as a Democrat in the August 23 primary.