Gaetz wins House GOP primary, will face fired Florida COVID data scientist Rebekah Jones

Published: Aug. 24, 2022 at 10:59 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Rep. Matt Gaetz has defeated his GOP primary opponents on Tuesday to face off against Democrat Rebekah Jones in November.,

Gaetz is vying for his fourth term as Florida’s First Congressional District Congressman. Rep. Gaetz overcame campaign attacks over a federal investigation for alleged sex trafficking. Gaetz has not been charged and denies any wrongdoing. His reelection bid was also bolstered by an endorsement from former President Donald Trump days before the primary on August 23.

“The victory was humbling and encouraging. The margin of victory was surprising,” said Rep. Gaetz in a Zoom call with NewsChannel 7.

Gaetz defeated GOP challengers Mark Lombardo and Greg Merk with 70% of the vote.

“It’s my intention to see that the America First policies that made our country so successful under Donald Trump’s presidency will continue to define the Republican Party in the country,” said Gaetz.

On the other side of the aisle, political newcomer Rebekah Jones defeated Peggy Schiller with 63% of the vote. Jones was thrust into the spotlight during the pandemic in 2020. She was fired from the Florida Department of Health after making allegations that Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Administration was manipulating COVID-19 case data. Later a state inspector general report found no evidence of any wrongdoing. Jones disputes that report.

“That was a start to a path that I never imagined, but that I’m grateful that I’m on and I think has purpose, and that purpose was always bigger than me,” said Jones in a Zoom call with NewsChannel 7.

”Ron DeSantis called joins the Typhoid Mary of COVID disinformation, I tend to agree,” said Gaetz.

Jones is currently facing criminal charges, accused of sending unauthorized messages from a department of health emergency alert system.

But she also jumped another legal hurdle to win the primary. Just a day before the election, an appeals court overturned a ruling that would have blocked her from running. Her opponent, Schiller, filed a suit that argued Jones wasn’t a member of the Democrat Party for one year before qualifying.

Now, she’ll have to sway a historically red district to make it to Congress.

“I tried to run this race as an independent which is why all the court shenanigans happened,” said Jones. “Whoever you are, you are wanted here. It’s a fight of good versus Gaetz and we are going to win.”

However, Gaetz is hoping voters keep the district red for two more years.

”It wasn’t that long ago that we were producing things and making things,” said Gaetz. “I think that an embrace of the Trump policies is the best vision to achieve that objective.”

The general election is set for Tuesday, November 8.