Florida politician Shevrin Jones, who was the target of homophobic robotexts after being turned away from a blood donation center because he’s gay, won the Democratic primary for the state Senate Tuesday night, setting him up to become the first out member of that body.
Jones, currently a state representative, was ahead of his closest challenger in Senate District 35 by more than 27 percentage points with 97 percent of precincts reporting, according to the Miami Herald. He had several competitors in the primary in the heavily Democratic South Florida district, but in November his only opponent is an independent write-in candidate, Darien Hill, who has not been actively campaigning. Therefore Jones is likely to win the general election. The incumbent, Oscar Braynon, is retiring due to term limits.
Jones went public about the rejection by a blood service less than two weeks before the election. He sought to donate plasma, along with his parents and brother, as all had recently recovered from COVID-19, and the plasma of survivors is being used as an experimental treatment for the virus. Jones, who is in a relationship, was rejected because he had had sex with another man within the previous three months. That makes him ineligible to donate, under Food and Drug Administration guidelines. The three-month deferral period is down from what was once a lifetime ban on donations by gay and bisexual men, established in the 1980s to prevent the spread of HIV; scientists and activists continue to argue for a different policy that recognizes current science and does not discriminate against an entire group of people.
A few days after the Herald published a story about the matter, a robotext was sent to voters in his district saying, “The Miami Herald reported that Shevrin Jones was discriminated against for recent homosexual contact.” It linked to a website called ShevJones.com, which is not Jones’s official campaign site, where the only page was a verbatim copy of the Herald’s story about the blood center’s rejection of Jones. It remains unknown who sent the texts, although two of his opponents in the primary have a history of homophobic comments.
Jones told the Herald his victory in the primary is a sign of a new era in Florida politics. “It’s a clear picture that people are tired of the divisive nature of where we are in this country, and my message to anyone in politics is that the high road always wins,” he said. “It’s a glass ceiling broken.” This is not Jones’s only first; he was the first Black gay member of the Florida House.
“Shevrin shattered a long-standing political barrier for LGBTQ candidates in Florida and did so while running against opponents who attack our community — and that is history-making,” Annise Parker, president and CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which had endorsed Jones, said in a press release. “He won the trust of constituents through his people-centered work and legislation while in the state House, ensuring the homophobic attacks on him would fail and even backfire. As a state senator, Shevrin will continue to be a role model and inspiration for LGBTQ young people — and especially Black LGBTQ youth — who too rarely see people like them in office. Florida voters chose wisely and we are thrilled to have worked so closely with Shevrin throughout his campaign.”
Three out Victory Fund-endorsed nonincumbents won Florida primaries Tuesday, all in state House districts: Joshua Hicks, Ricky Junquera, and Michele Rayner. This puts the state on track to double the number of out members of the state legislature in November. Current Reps. Carlos Guillermo Smith and Jennifer Webb won uncontested House primaries, and Jones is set to move up from the House to the Senate. In another House district, a queer Black woman, Jasmen Rogers-Shaw, lost her primary to incumbent Anika Omphroy by a narrow margin.
Another candidate who'd been subjected to homophobic slurs won a Florida primary Tuesday — Omari Hardy, currently a city commissioner in Lake Worth Beach, defeated incumbent Al Jacquet in the race for the Democratic state representative nomination in House District 88. Jacquet had used the antigay slur “batty boy” toward Hardy during the campaign, and the incumbent also was accused of financial irregularities and oddly reported spending nothing on his reelection campaign, according to Florida Politics. Hardy is not gay, but he said the slur “was still personal for me because I was raised in a same-sex household. I have two mothers and I know how hurtful those types of slurs can be,” The Palm Beach Post reports. Hardy will face Republican Danielle Madsen and unaffiliated candidate Rubin Anderson in November.
“Florida is witnessing a rainbow revolution, with an unprecedented number of openly LGBTQ state legislative candidates running for office and an opportunity to at least double LGBTQ representation come November,” Parker said. “But this is about more than just the state legislature. These candidates can inspire pro-equality voters to turn out for them in record numbers, with the potential to influence which presidential candidate wins Florida and ultimately the White House. Florida voters must get out to vote for these LGBTQ candidates and elect a government more reflective of the people it serves — and their impact can be enormous.”
The out Florida candidates were also endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign. HRC Associate Regional Campaign Director Ryan Wilson issued the following statement:“The fight for LGBTQ equality is going strong in Florida. Congratulations to Shevrin Jones and now Representative-elect Michele Rayner, both of whom are ready to deliver on their promise for greater protections and equality as leaders in Tallahassee should they win in November. It’s long past time to end the patchwork of protections across the state of Florida for 770,000 LGBTQ Floridians who deserve equality under the law. Last night’s victories show that voters in Florida and all across America are rejecting anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and candidates in favor of a more inclusive, diverse future. HRC is proud to support these leaders for change, and over the next 75 days, we are excited to work with them and the full slate of HRC-endorsed candidates to engage the over 3.9 million Equality Voters in Florida and deliver pro-equality majorities in the Florida state legislature and electoral victories up and down the ticket.”
Equality Florida Action's political action committee helped mobilize support for our and allied candidates, and 80 percent of those it endorsed won Tuesday night. “Representation matters,” said Nadine Smith, Equality Florida executive director, in a press release. “Historic primary wins by Black LGBTQ candidates move us closer to cementing a seat at the table for those who need it most. In an era of racist rhetoric and unfettered bigotry from Donald Trump, these victories serve as a beacon of hope for everyone who values equality and justice. We are thrilled to have eased access to voting for our community, mobilized thousands of pro-equality voters, and delivered victories across the state. Now we turn our attention to winning in November.”