Republican Bonnie Jackson is staking out a campaign platform in the House District 42 race that could make her a diametric alternative on culture war issues compared with Democratic Rep. Anna V. Eskamani, the incumbent Jackson seeks to replace.
Take two social issues that divide Florida on cultural lines over the past couple of Legislative Sessions: parental rights in schools and immigration. Jackson is offering hardline conservative positions that might even go beyond those many Republicans are willing to espouse, let alone what’s advocated by Eskamani of Orlando, one of the leading warriors of the Democrats’ left wing.
For Jackson, such issues are paramount. She is also distancing herself a bit from some of the more establishment Republican positions on things like the role businesses might play in public policy, and the role lawyers might play in society.
“Parental rights, they just passed a bill that I was very happy to see. I’d like to see it a little stronger, but let’s see how that gets implemented,” Jackson suggested in a recent interview.
“Keeping sexual orientation and gender identification out of K-3: I had questions about why that didn’t go all the way to 12th grade. And the answer I got from the legislators was that there actually is a mechanism in there to protect kids from K through 12.”
A former assistant district attorney in Houston, Jackson moved to Florida 24 years ago. She has served on various boards, including the Winter Park Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. She’s also a former beauty pageant contestant — Miss Wisconsin of 1986, who competed against future Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry in the 1986 Miss USA pageant.
Jackson is one of two Republicans pursuing the Republican Primary nomination for the north-central Orange County HD 42. She faces licensed public adjuster David Dwyer of Orlando.
Through the end of March, Jackson had raised about $12,000 and lent another $10,000 to her campaign. Dwyer had raised about $8,000, while lending $36,000 to his campaign. Jackson also rolled out endorsements, including from Cory Mills, a leading Republican candidate for Congress in Florida’s 7th Congressional District.
On the newly approved House map, HD 42 covers the northern Orlando suburbs of Maitland, Eatonville and Winter Park; much of central Orlando including most of downtown and the East Side out to Baldwin Park; and much of Orlando’s South Side, plus parts of the communities of Conway, Edgewood and Belle Isle.
Results of the past two General Elections suggest the voter base has a Democratic lean, perhaps a strong Democratic lean.
Jackson entered the campaign in November. She said she spent the past few months talking with people and keeping track of the 2022 Legislative Session and Special Session. Jackson said she is now beginning fundraising in earnest. She has a fundraiser set for Sunday in Belle Isle.
A proponent of smaller government, Jackson nonetheless is convinced Florida state government must play a more aggressive role in education. She argued that Orange County Public Schools and other districts have given in to progressive culture and are indoctrinating students with progressive propaganda. That, she said, means the state needs to expand its role, through bills like the controversial HB 1557, the parental rights bill Republicans pushed through last month.
She said she understands there are rainbow flags “in just about every classroom” in Orange County schools. She also asserted the school district contracted for education materials with a program called BrainPOP, which she hears may be owned by communists, and which she said offers learning modules on Black Lives Matter, gender identity and gay pride.
Schools, she said, “are creating a wedge between the parent and the child. And it’s wrong.”
“What is age appropriate? We really ought to set some standards there. The problem is, the standards keep evolving. And we have left it up to — or trusted, I should say — the School Board and school administrators to make appropriate decisions. And they failed to do their jobs. It’s abysmal. I think every single one of … the Orange County School Board members need to go. Some of them are registered Republicans. I don’t care. It’s not about party. It’s about protecting children,” Jackson said.
“It just sickens me when I see people like Anna Eskamani or Carlos Guillermo Smith out there calling it the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill,” Jackson said, pairing Eskamani with her neighbor lawmaker and progressive ally, Democratic Rep. Smith of Orlando. “They’re deploying tactics. They’re spreading propaganda. … For them, it’s all about an agenda. It’s: how do we promote gay pride?”
On her other major issue, immigration, Jackson said she will push “mandatory E-Verify, all the way. The lawyers need to confirm that the person they are hiring is not only here legally, but legally allowed to work.”
That leads to one of at least a few issues that divide Jackson a bit from business-oriented Republicans.
She blames the Chamber of Commerce for blocking full, mandatory E-Verify laws, and also raises concerns about how businesses too often get government handouts and expect government favoritism.
“I would say ‘no’ to the Chamber. And my law firm has never been a member of the Chamber of Commerce,” she said.
She also is no fan of tort reform, a long running crusade for many Republicans, with Chamber encouragement.
“I am absolutely anti-tort reform. No tort reform. It is ridiculous. The jury will get it right if you follow the rules,” Jackson said.