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Shevrin Jones eyes Florida Governor race to fix “broken bridge”

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Florida Democratic State Sen. Shevrin Jones, one of the state’s most outspoken critics of Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, is considering a race to become the state’s next leader in 2026.

“People are generally through with the polarization of politics because it’s not putting money in peoples’ pockets. It’s not putting food on the table, and it’s not making individuals’ lives better,” Sen. Jones told The Black Wall Street Times.

On the outside looking in, Sen. Shevrin Jones (D-34) and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis appear as polar opposites. Jones is an unapologetically Black and queer man who says he wants to be inclusive of all voices.

Meanwhile, DeSantis, is a far-right conservative who’s gained the support of neo-Nazis. He’s led a national campaign targeting marginalized groups.

shevrin jones florida
Left: Florida Governor Ron Desantis. (CNN) Right: Florida state Sen. Shevrin Jones. (News Service of Florida)

Regardless of whether DeSantis receives the 2024 Republican nomination for President, he’s term-limited as governor. A new field of candidates will emerge in 2026, and Sen. Jones believes the next governor must value all Floridians.

“What we’re seeing right now is not who Florida is,” Jones said.

Shevrin Jones wants Florida to go in new direction

Born in Miami Gardens, Florida, state Sen. Jones has built an impressive resumé of service to his community. A member of Alpha Phi Alpha, Jones holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership and served as executive director of Florida Reading Corps.

After becoming a state lawmaker, he continued his support of expanding access to reading and education. He served in the Florida House of Representatives from 2012-2020, before being elected to the state Senate.

Meanwhile, on January 3, Gov. DeSantis gave an inaugural speech that signaled his national ambitions.

“We reject this woke ideology; We seek normalcy, not philosophical lunacy; We will not allow reality, facts, and truth to become optional,” DeSantis said. “We will never surrender to the woke mob. Florida is where woke goes to die.”

shevrin jones florida
The Rev. Al Sharpton speaks to a crowd of hundreds from the steps from the steps of the Senate portico in response to Gov. DeSantis’s rejection of a high school African American history course, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023, in Tallahassee, Fla. (Alicia Devine/ Tallahassee Democrat via AP)

As a presidential candidate who’s still serving as Florida governor, DeSantis seeks to export his policies nationwide. Yet, many of them have already been copied in other states. Abortion bans, book bans, and limiting lessons on history, race and gender have all become proposed or passed into law by other Republican-controlled states.

Sen. Jones is accusing DeSantis of failing Floridians by focusing on issues that don’t solve their everyday problems. For instance, the insurance crisis in Florida is beginning to shatter the state’s image as the best place to retire.

“People are being priced out of their homes because Florida is too expensive for Floridians to live,” Sen. Shevrin Jones said.

Ending the “war on woke”

As a member of multiple education committees, including serving as vice chair of the Appropriations Committee on Education, Sen. Jones has had a front-row seat to Gov. DeSantis’ “war on woke.”

DeSantis’ policies have banned AP African American Studies, banned books, targeted immigrants and targeted LGBTQ students. For his part, Sen. Jones has been a reliable voice of opposition.

As the first openly gay Black lawmaker in the state, state Sen. Jones feels the attacks on a personal level.

“I pray more now than ever, and I believe in my heart that God loves me more than ever. I hate how they treat people,” Sen. Jones told the Associated Press in May.

Democratic Florida Sen. Shevrin Jones is pictured outside the Senate chambers in Tallahassee, Fla., Wednesday, April 26, 2023. Jones and other LGBTQ+ lawmakers around the country feel like they are fighting for their existence in conservative states where anti-LGBTQ+ legislation is moving forward. (AP Photo/Brendan Farrington)

Speaking with The Black Wall Street Times, Jones said the damage DeSantis has done will have long-lasting effects.

“We are number 43 in the country when it comes to our students being able to read, but yet we are still banning books. And all for what? All for the sake of them trying to get a political message out,” Sen. Jones said.

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Parental Rights for Whom?

Perhaps one of the most significant differences between Florida Gov. DeSantis and Sen. Shevrin Jones involves their definition of parental rights.

From DeSantis in Florida to State Superintendent Ryan Walters in Oklahoma, far-right politicians have latched onto the banner of “parental rights” in defense of their exclusive policies.

Republicans have become emboldened by groups like Moms for Liberty, which continues a McCarthyism-style attack on educators and administrators who don’t share their fascist ideology.

The group has been designated an extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center . It’s also played a role in orchestrating the largest number (over 4,000) of banned books in modern U.S. history.

“If I decide to run for Governor my biggest thing is being inclusive of all parents,” Sen. Jones said. “It’s crazy that we have to say that because when you talk about parental rights you should be talking about all parents anyway. It should not be this subset of parents where we’re only creating policy for the small minority.”

Ultimately, policy and rhetoric have been shown to have real-world impacts.

Gov. DeSantis faced sharp criticism for his tepid response to the Jacksonville mass shooting. The anti-Black domestic terrorist attacker killed three people in August. It’s become the latest in a series of racially motivated killings across the country.

“While we’re trying to protect children from woke, we need to be trying to protect children from guns,” Sen. Jones told The Black Wall Street Times. No one should have to live in a state where they fear being themselves.”

What to expect from Florida State Sen. Shevrin Jones

DeSantis has fallen in GOP presidential polls in recent months. Meanwhile, some supporters of South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott are flocking to him after the Senator disbanded his campaign last week, the Hill reported.

Meanwhile, DeSantis faces criticism from the ACLU for his attempts to disband a pro-Palestinian student group at the University of Florida amidst the Israeli war against Hamas.

“The governor thinks that he is going to create peace on college campuses, and he’s going to be protective of Jewish students on college campuses, maybe of the Jewish community by silencing pro-Palestinian voices. And if that’s his position, he’s just wrong about that,” ACLU Florida interim director Howard Simon said after students sued DeSantis.

The Black Wall Street Times asked Sen. Shevrin Jones when he’ll make a decision on the 2026 Florida Governor race. He said right now he wants to focus on reelecting President Biden in 2024.

“Florida is still in play,” Sen. Jones said, adding he believes Biden’s policies have benefitted Floridians. Moving forward, he said he’ll help organize, register people to vote, and spread a message of “mending the broken bridge.”

After the 2024 presidential election, he’ll make a decision about his own future. One thing is certain. If Sen. Jones decides to run, “this will not just be a race for some. This will definitely be a race for all,” he said.

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