Home News The Appeals Court Sided With Rebekah Jones

The Appeals Court Sided With Rebekah Jones

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An appeals court Monday rejected a decision that would have prevented Democrat Rebekah Jones from competing for a congressional seat in Northwest Florida on the night of the primary election.

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Court clears way for Jones in congressional race

The Appeals Court Sided With Rebekah Jones

Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper’s decision that Jones was unable to run for office in Congressional District 1 because she hadn’t joined the Democratic Party for 365 days before to registering to run was overturned by a three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal.

Jones, a former employee of the Florida Department of Health, entered the campaign after gaining notoriety for claims that the DeSantis administration had falsified COVID-19 data.

Peggy Schiller, one of the plaintiffs, and another filed the complaint in July contesting Jones’ eligibility.

Jones was registered without a party affiliation for two months in 2021, according to Cooper, which disqualified her from running for office under the state’s 365-day threshold.

However, the appeals court’s decision did not specifically address whether Jones had been a registered Democrat for the necessary period of time.

Instead, it said that because the Department of State had ruled that Jones was eligible to vote, state law did not permit the legal challenge.

According to the law, candidates must confirm in writing that they adhere to party affiliation rules.

The legislation, however, “does not require proof of real party affiliation, and it does not speak in any way to disqualifying a candidate if such sworn affirmations turn out to be false,” according to the appeals court’s decision.

If a party candidate was not actually a registered party member throughout the allotted 365 days, there is no specific power to disqualify her from running.

The ruling, which was authored by Judge Rachel Nordby and concurred in by Judges Harvey Jay and Scott Makar, stated that “if we were to construe the party affiliation statement in (a section of state law) as a basis for disqualification, we would be reading into the statute what the Legislature chose not to include.”

The Legislature “may wish to consider implementing a mechanism to decide, early-on, the bona fides of a political primary candidate’s party oath; currently, one is lacking and requires that political party candidates be taken at their word, which is likely not to be sustainable,” Makar wrote in a concurring opinion.

According to Makar, “a statutory norm of some type is necessary to categorize and deem eligible people who seek the nomination of a political party” if a government-run primary election is to be practical.

“The criterion may be lax or stringent, but it should be made explicit in the act itself, which this case indicates is lacking, who is to enforce the statutory requirement and when enforcement is allowed.

To avoid the kind of on-the-ballot/off-the-ballot seesaw that took place in this case, political parties should at the very least have a point of entry and a way to voice their opinion regarding candidates’ party eligibility under the statute.

Makar added that the current legal system can encourage deceit.

Furthermore, Makar wrote, “I have great hesitation in voting to reverse the trial court’s thoughtful and on the surface reasonable order that some ill-motivated ne’er-do-wells may attempt to pawn themselves off as legitimate members of a political party, when they are not, simply to inject chaos or conspiratorial intrigue into a party’s primary; the ingenuity and unscrupulousness reflected in political gamesmanship knows no bounds.

But in this instance, it is obvious that the politician in question belongs firmly on the Democratic side of the scale and is not making an effort to pass for a Democrat.

Democrats are attempting to unseat Republican U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida in the counties of Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, and Walton.

In Tuesday’s primary in the highly Republican district, Gaetz will face two GOP challengers.

The judgment was made on Monday, following the Tallahassee-based appeals court’s Friday decision to reject a Cooper decision that would have prevented Republican Jerry Torres from running in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties’ Congressional District 14.

A lawsuit was brought by the Florida Democratic Party and other plaintiffs on the grounds that Torres’ eligibility documents were improperly notarized.

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Ritika Bala
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