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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Shevrin Jones, the Democratic state senator from Miami-Dade County who has become a leading voice opposing Florida’s shift to the political right, may run for governor in 2026.
If Jones runs, and is elected, he would become the first openly gay Black governor in U.S. history.
“It’s time for us to do something different,” Jones said in a telephone interview with the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “I am looking at all options. And I will go as far as the people will take me.”
One of those options, he said, is seeking his party’s nomination to run for governor. “From Washington, D.C., to the state, there are individuals who have … said, ‘Hey Shev, you should do this.’ I haven’t made a decision. But it is something that I won’t take off the table.”
Jones is aware of the challenges: Florida is trending increasingly Republican. For the first time in the state’s history, Republicans overtook Democrats in voter registrations in 2021, and the gap has widened ever since. And in 2022, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis won a crushing reelection victory.
But Jones said there are reasons for Democratic optimism. He said policies enacted by DeSantis and the Republican Legislature have gone so far to the right on social and culture war issues — while failing to effectively act on pocketbook issues such as ever-increasing insurance premiums — that people he speaks with across the state want something different.
“What the Republicans have done over the last four years and the laws that Governor DeSantis has put forward, has created I think a change in peoples’ mindset and their trust in the Republicans ability to lead this state,” Jones said. “The MAGA Republicans have continued their extreme agenda at all levels. It is deeply unpopular and out of touch with Floridians.”
Jones cited the law (pending before the state Supreme Court) that bans virtually all abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy, the Don’t Say Gay/Parental Rights in Education restrictions on instruction in LGBTQ issues in schools, and book bans.
“That’s not who we are. Floridians are looking for results and actions from their elected officials. They are not looking for division,” he said.
Only three Black people have been elected governor of a U.S. state. And only four states have elected openly LGBTQ governors. Jones said he isn’t dissuaded by those numbers.
“I know most people’s biggest question is … can a gay Black candidate win? I don’t think this is about anybody’s identity. This is about who understands Floridians’ priorities, and who understands everyone’s aspirations for a brighter future,” he said. “People are looking for authentic plans and leadership, not the petty slogans and soundbites that’s constantly coming forth in our political circles. Regardless of whether someone is purple, striped or polka-dotted, they care about and prioritize the economy, and prioritize people.”
Jones has emerged in recent years as a prominent face of the Democratic opposition in Florida, increasing his profile in the state and nationally.
A charismatic speaker, Jones can generate excitement when speaking to a crowd. Jones, who grew up in the Black church, can show the style and cadence of a preacher delivering a powerful sermon.
Jones’ father, the Rev. Eric Jones Sr., is the founder and senior pastor of Koinonia Worship Center & Village in Pembroke Park. The elder Jones was also the first mayor of West Park in southern Broward County.
Jones, 40, was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2012 and was reelected three times. After term limits precluded him from running again, he won a seat in the Florida Senate in 2020. Earlier, in 2010, he was an unsuccessful Democratic candidate in a Broward County commission primary.
He has a bachelor’s degree from Florida A&M University and a master’s degree and doctorate from Florida Atlantic University.
Jones was born in Miami Gardens, lived for many years in Broward, and moved back to Miami Gardens when once-a-decade redistricting changed boundaries of Florida Senate districts.
Jones is well liked, even by many people with whom he battles on public policy.
He said he is willing to work with people on both sides of the political aisle, “even when it’s with individuals I disagree with.” Even though Republicans are the majority party in the Florida Senate, Jones is vice chair of the Appropriations Committee on Education.
Jones was an early supporter of President Joe Biden’s 2020 candidacy when many other Democrats favored others. (He traveled to Iowa where he campaigned alongside former Secretary of State John Kerry, who is now the special presidential envoy for climate.)
Jones is also a member of the Democratic National Committee and Biden campaign surrogate for 2024. Besides the DNC exposure and ties to Biden world, he’s known to other potentially valuable allies through his work to register and turn out Black voters, especially Black men.
Jones said Democrats shouldn’t write off Florida in 2024 and beyond.
“We have to focus on 2024 first and foremost, because Florida is a competitive state, and it is critically important that we build on the momentum that we’ve seen recently including Jacksonville’s May election, when people turned out to elect the city’s first Democratic mayor in many years,” he said.
Biden “has the right message for Florida” and is delivering results “whether Republicans want to admit it or not,” Jones said, citing protecting Social Security and Medicare, combating climate change and lowering health care costs.
Jones said the Republican majority isn’t willing to come up with solutions to the property insurance crisis. “When you have parents that are forced to work several jobs to put food on their tables, to put a roof over their head, that’s not a Republican or a Democratic issue.”
“These are ultimately policy choices,” Jones said. “I refuse to accept this as just the way things are.”
Through 2024, Jones said he’s concentrating on supporting state Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried’s efforts to rebuild the party and winning state Senate elections in competitive districts. “That’s what has to be our main focus. That’s going to be the benchmark to see what makes sense in 2026.”
Jones is not the only Democratic state legislator contemplating a run for governor in 2026.
He said a decision is a long way off — and wouldn’t come until after the 2024 presidential election.
After that, he’ll decide what to do. He could run for reelection to the Florida Senate, but if he runs for governor he’d have to forgo that.
“When I went into the Legislature, all I wanted to do was to help people. I continued to define what that looked like as I represented my district,” Jones said. As he saw more of what was happening across the country, to “states that were totally different than Florida, and then coming back to Florida and seeing the things that Florida’s leaders were doing,” he began to think about the bigger picture.
“How can I be part of the change in Florida?” he said. “I believe in what Florida can be is not a Democrat or a Republican thing, but is what we can build together.”