Aug 24, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Fired Florida COVID data scientist to challenge Gaetz for U.S. House seat

Congressman Matt Gaetz speaks during CPAC Texas 2022 conference at Hilton Anatole in Dallas, TX on August 6.

Rep. Matt Gaetz during the CPAC Texas 2022 conference in Dallas earlier this month. Photo: Lev Radin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) will face Democratic challenger Rebekah Jones, a fired Florida Health Department data scientist who rose to national prominence early in the pandemic, in the state's 1st Congressional District race in November, per AP.

Driving the news: Gaetz saw off two Republican primary challengers, while Jones defeated Peggy Schiller in the Democrats' race on Tuesday — one day after a Florida appeals court reversed a lower court's ruling that she was ineligible to run because she hadn't been a registered Democrat for the required period.

The big picture: Jones made headlines in 2020 when she said she was fired for refusing to "manipulate data" for the state and created her own coronavirus case tracker as an alternative to Florida's COVID-19 dashboard.

  • She became a vocal critic of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and filed a whistleblower complaint over her allegations. A report by an inspector general for the health department in May found her claims were "unsubstantiated."
  • Jones was criminally charged last year over allegations that she accessed state computer systems without authorization. The case is pending and she denies the allegations.
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