Rebekah Jones, a data scientist fired from Florida's Health Department during the COVID-19 pandemic, won Tuesday's Democratic U.S. House primary in Florida's first district. Photo courtesy of Rebekah Jones/Facebook
Aug. 24 (UPI) -- A data scientist, fired from Florida's health department during the COVID-19 pandemic, won Tuesday's Democratic U.S. House primary in Florida's first congressional district.
Rebekah Jones defeated Peggy Schiller with 63% of the vote. She will challenge Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, a staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump, who has represented the district since 2017.
Jones' win comes after she claimed she was fired from her position at the Florida Department of Public Health in May of 2020 for not distorting COVID-19 data. State officials said she was fired for insubordination after publicly complaining about alleged pressure.
Jones developed an alternate COVID-19 dashboard that expanded on some of the state data and reported hospital bed availability.
She filed a whistleblower report against the health department and blamed Gov. Ron DeSantis for hiding true case counts to keep the state open.
In Dec. 2020, Jones posted a video showing armed officers entering her home and confiscating her hardware and tech.
"They were serving a warrant on my computer after DOH filed a complaint," Jones said. "They pointed a gun in my face. They pointed guns at my kids."
"They took my phone and the computer I use everyday to post the case numbers in Florida and school cases for the entire country," Jones added. "They took evidence of corruption at the state level. They claimed it was about a security breach. This was Gov. DeSantis. He sent the gestapo."
The Department of Health said the search was in response to a complaint alleging Jones had breached the emergency messaging alert system and had "illegally accessed the system."
"Agents entered the home in accordance with normal protocols and seized several devices that will be forensically analyzed," the department said in a statement after the search. "At no time were weapons pointed at anyone in the home."
Jones turned herself in to police in Jan. 2021 and was charged with one count of offenses against users of computers, computer systems, computer networks and electronic devices.
A state investigation report released earlier this year found no evidence Florida officials tried to manipulate COVID-19 data.
Jones' congressional bid was almost derailed earlier this month after her opponent, Schiller, filed a lawsuit claiming Jones had not been a registered Democrat for a year prior to running for the House seat.
A judge disqualified Jones from running, but an appeals panel reversed the decision on Monday, one day before the primary.