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Robotext targets Florida lawmaker’s sexuality in heated Senate race

In the race for a South Florida Senate seat, Rep. Shevrin Jones told the Miami Herald this is the first attack he has faced this cycle that he considers homophobic.

Someone has taken a Miami Herald story about state Rep. Shevrin Jones being turned away from donating plasma Friday and turned it into a campaign tactic to reach voters in Senate District 35, the northern Miami-Dade and southern Broward county district where Jones is competing in a crowded primary.

Jones, one of Florida’s few openly gay lawmakers, says he was turned away while attempting to donate his plasma at a OneBlood truck set up in the parking lot of the Pembroke Park church where his father is a pastor.

On Sunday, a text message was sent to voters across the district — including Jones’ family — that says “the Miami Herald reported that Shevrin Jones was discriminated against for recent homosexual contact.” It links to a website called [shevjones.com]“ShevJones.com,” where the Miami Herald article detailing the OneBlood incident is copied word-for-word.

It is the only page on the website. The site was created Sunday, according to metadata reviewed by the Miami Herald.

Jones, who went to donate plasma with his father, mother and brother, all of whom recently recovered from COVID-19, said his donation was “deferred” after he answered “yes” to a screening question that asked if he had sex with a man in the last three months.

The question is part of a Food and Drug Administration rule called the Men Who Have Sex With Men (MSM) policy, which generally bars gay or bisexual men from donating blood for a 12-month period. Amid the HIV/AIDS crisis of the 1980s, the FDA implemented a lifetime ban on blood donations from all men who had sex with men since 1983.

That policy was in place until 2015, when the FDA revised the guidelines from a lifetime ban to a 12-month deferral period. Because of the need for donations to treat COVID-19 patients with convalescent plasma, the FDA implemented a new rule in April that reduced the period from 12 to three months of abstinence before a gay or bisexual man can donate.

Jones’ actual campaign website is “ShevrinJones.com” not “ShevJones.com.” He sent a rebuttal text to voters Monday morning that called the attack “discriminatory.”

“Regardless of these nasty attacks, I plan on fighting for you in the Florida Senate,” the text read. “I ask that you ignore this kind of trash.”

Jones told the Miami Herald this is the first attack he has faced this cycle that he considers homophobic.

“It’s a shame that my opponents have stooped to this new low to try and win,” he said. “Rather than running off the issues that matter to the voters of our community, they have chosen to lob desperate attacks based on an antiquated, discriminatory FDA policy ... Hate never wins.”

The Democratic primary race to replace term-limited Sen. Oscar Braynon has attracted state representatives Jones and Barbara Watson, former Rep. Cynthia Stafford and former Sen. Daphne Campbell. Miami Gardens City Councilman Erhabor Ighodaro is also running.

The attack follows a trend of recent attack mailers and digital advertisements that have started to crop up as early voting begins across the state.

Some of Jones’ more formidable candidates have expressed their views on gay marriage at public appearances and to the media. At a campaign event in February, Ighodaro said he’s the best option for voters because “There is an image that God says a marriage should look like, that families should look like. And that’s what we’re gonna fight for.”

Ighodaro declined to comment on the text and website Sunday, but said “a policy is a policy " when asked his opinion on the FDA’s MSM rule.

In 2018, Campbell — who was running for Senate District 38 at the time — appeared on CBS Miami’s Facing South Florida to defend her vote in 2015 against gay adoption and her decision to co-sponsor a so-called “bathroom bill” widely interpreted as an attack on Florida’s transgender community.

Campbell, a former state representative who was first elected to the Senate in 2016, represented a district that includes Miami Beach and its substantial and vocal gay community. She was debating Sen. Jason Pizzo on the show, to whom she eventually lost.

“The gay people have their rights. I have my rights,” she said

Campbell couldn’t be reached for comment.

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