April showers have brought May national headlines for Brevard School Board Member Jennifer Jenkins. She has been a common face on both national broadcast and print media throughout her first term as an elected official. She has both been a target of, and taken on the biggest Republican names in Florida. Most, recently by Governor DeSantis naming her directly as someone he wants to actively campaign against in her current School Board seat, as well as DeSantis’ self-proclaimed “pit bully” Randy Fine who was just last month found to have likely broken Florida Ethics laws by the Governor appointed, Republican majority Ethics Commission from an investigation launched by Jenkins herself.
Her ability, and willingness to fight (and win) has now caught the attention of both state and national key Democratic players. According to reports this week by NBC News, POLITICO, Florida Phoenix, and the Palm Beach Post, Jenkins was making the rounds in D.C. with several donors and leaders in the Democratic Party, being seriously considered as the potential challenger of Florida Senator Rick Scott.
JENKINS MAKING THE ROUNDS — Brevard School Board member Jennifer Jenkins has recently emerged as a possible candidate to challenge Sen. Rick Scott in 2024 and it looks like the effort to recruit her is getting serious. Jenkins was invited last week to speak at the first annual conference of the Pipeline Fund, which was recently established by female donors and advisers. While she was in Washington, D.C., sources told Playbook, Jenkins also met with national Democrats and donors. Last weekend, Jenkins also appeared at a Florida Democratic Party unity rally in Tampa.
Among the newest names on the list is that of Brevard County School Board member Jennifer Jenkins, who has been a leading Democratic counterweight in the growing school board-level culture war fights. She was vetted to be Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist’s running mate in 2016, and she was a surrogate for both Crist and Democratic Senate candidate Val Demings.
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DeSantis put Jenkins on a list of 14 school board members across the state he is targeting in 2024, and she has been vocal in support of LGBTQ rights. In October, she wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post about the increasing hostility school board members face as education becomes a premiere culture war issue.
“I’m actually considering it,” she said. “You know, everyone agrees that Florida needs a new generation of candidates. The Rick Scotts of the world have failed us and, for me personally, one of my driving forces is the fact that Rick Scott has made it really clear that he sees eye-to-eye with [Ron] DeSantis on dismantling our public schools. And a lot of people — myself included — will do everything in our power to make sure he’s not reelected again.”
Jennifer Jenkins at 36-years-old is a newcomer to the political arena. She first won election in 2020 to the Brevard County School Board as a severe underdog. She against a well funded, and connected Republican incumbent, Tina Descovich (Founder of Moms for Liberty). The district was a +14 point Republican heavy district. Jenkins won the election by nearly 10 points.
As a result, she became the target of harassment from the newly formed Moms for Liberty organization. She was constantly heckled during School Board Meetings, had protestors show up to her home, brandishing weapons to her neighbors, a Moms for Liberty member (who was later arrested) spit in her face, and had her property destroyed. It all reached a climax when someone called in a false DCF (Department of Children and Families) claim accusing her of abusing her daughter. DCF and law enforcement showed up to a play date her daughter was on to physically examine her for signs of abuse. The claims went unfounded, and an investigation into who made the false report is still ongoing.
Those actions resulted in Jenkins addressing the endless harassment during a school board meeting. A clip from the impactful video went viral amassing millions of views, and an outpouring of support from across the nation.
Jenkins said her only reservation abour running is the potential impacts it could have on her daughter. “Elected Republicans in Florida have proven they have no limits on how far they will go to retaliate against and harm those who challenge them.” But that also serves as her motivation for running at the same time. “If I don’t run now, the way things are going in Florida, women may very well not have the right to run anymore. I’m not going to sit on the sidelines and watch while my daughter has less rights today, than before she was born.”
On the other side of the aisle is Republican Senator Rick Scott. He’s viewed by many as the most vulnerable Senator up for re-election next year. When we asked her opinion on the former Florida Governor, Jenkins said, “Republicans don’t even like Rick Scott.” Well she’s not wrong.
According to the most recent polling, of the 49 current Republican Senators, Scott ranks 42nd in approval ratings. Among Florida Republican voters, only 38% ‘strongly approve’ of Scott’s performance, while 34% ‘somewhat approve.’ 28% of Republican’s disapprove.
Even among other Republican Senators, a ‘Vast majority’ want ‘a different direction’ than Rick Scott on key issues. Republican Senator Mike Rounds said most Republicans don’t agree with Sen. Rick Scott‘s plan to sunset programs including Medicare and Social Security. He also was handedly defeated by Mitch McConnell 37 to 10 for the Senate Republican Leader.
Rick Scott barely won in 2018 against an incumbent Democratic Senator – he finished ahead by about 10,000 votes out of eight million despite raising over $83 million for his campaign (the most in history) with over $60 million coming from his own pocket. That election was the first time Scott was able to break 50% of the vote (he got 50.1%) in any election. Prior to 2018, he was never able to pass 48% of the votes in any election. In every election Scott has been in, he’s won by an average of 0.8%. at the cost of $168 million dollars. He is not popular by any stretch, but he is rich.
Scott’s 2018 opponent, Democrat Bill Nelson only raised $30 million to Scott’s $83 million, yet that lop-sided difference of astronomical spending resulted in the smallest margin of victory in Florida’s history. But a win is a win. Scott has the ability to self-fund his campaign to however much he needs to; Jenkins, a speech language pathologist that also Insta-carts on the side, and married to a school teacher, cannot.
One thing she does have on Scott that money can’t buy is personality. She’s exciting, passionate, and young which may be enough to attract the donors needed to drive a campaign, and inspire voters to get out and vote. Depending on how things go with the President’s race, that may be all she needs to make Florida ‘Scott-free.’
She’s made no commitments yet, but the discussions are clearly being had, and she’s the only name thus far it appears to have caused people to get excited.