- Florida Congressional District 1 candidate Bryan Jones announced his departure from the race on Tuesday
- The Air Force veteran cited an inability to match the finances of ballot newcomer Mark Lambardo, who pledged $1 million of his own money
- Matt Gaetz is now the runaway favorite for the GOP primary
- Gaetz is likely to face Rebekah Jones in the general election
Florida Congressional District 1 candidate Bryan Jones on Tuesday announced his withdrawal from the race, citing an inability to match the campaign finances of primary opponent Mark Lombardo, who pledged to put over $1 million of his personal funds into his campaign.
Jones, an Air Force veteran, claims he joined the race as a call to serve the nation but has removed himself, stating that he does not want to create a scenario in which two veterans split the vote, with Lombardo being a veteran of the Marine Corps.
Jones further stated that having two veterans on the ballot wouldn’t be in the best interest of the district, being the highest density of veterans in military families of any congressional district in America.
“The Republican primary on August 23rd is a winner-take-all system and a crowded ballot is not in the best interest of the voters of this district,” said Jones in a statement on Tuesday. “My withdrawal of candidacy for this race is out of a higher calling to remain truthful to my faith, the core values that guide me, and my life’s mission of putting the good of others above my own. Service before self is not just a motto for me, it is my life’s mission.”
In the early shapings of the Republican CD-1 ballot, it appeared that Jones could be a dark horse candidate to succeed U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz amid his ongoing investigation conducted by the Department of Justice over allegations of sex trafficking.
Now, it appears that the primary race is Gaetz’s for the taking.
There was past speculation that Gaetz would forego another election cycle, with the lawmaker claiming he was looking to “get out of Washington” during a rally in his hometown of Niceville last year. However, the grand opening of a new campaign headquarters office entrenches himself against a Republican primary opponent before facing a Democrat challenger, likely to be the contentious Rebekah Jones.
Embroiled in controversy herself, Jones made headlines last May after her house was searched by police under allegations of a suspected hacking into a Florida Department of Health computer system and sending unauthorized messages to members of the State Emergency Response Team. According to Jones, state officials pressured her to strategically align COVID-19 case data with Florida’s goal to reopen the state, coercing her to falsify official COVID-19 transmission data, leading to the termination of her job. However, she was actually fired for repeatedly violating the agency’s policy about communicating with the media, and has had many of her claims debunked as of late.
Despite the whirlwind nature of the Rebekah Jones saga, Gaetz’s activity may hurt him more. the popular right-wing official still remains under investigation as agents are seeking to determine if the outspoken Republican had sex with a 17-year-old. He has not been charged with any crimes and has openly denied wrongdoing thus far, but the lengthy process is yielding more questions than answers. Joel Greenberg, a former political ally of Gaetz, resigned from his job as tax collector last year when he was arrested by law enforcement agents on a fourteen-count indictment alleging he used his position to create fake IDs for sex-traffic minors. USA Today reports that Greenberg has been cooperative with authorities and may reveal information regarding Gaetz’s allegations.
A conducted recently-conducted poll reflects the present situation, showing that Jones leads Gaetz by a 53.5 percent to 45.6 percent margin. In a hypothetical standalone two-way race, the surveyed likely voters favor the challenger over the incumbent by a measure of 52.8 percent to 47.2 percent for a margin of 5.6 percent.
“I continue to be inspired by the people of Northwest Florida and I think I have an important role to play in fashioning the shape and flavor of the upcoming majority,” said Gaetz. “It was a year ago this month that people told terrible lies about me and I assured Northwest Floridians that those things were not true, but they were rooted in an extortion effort.”