Florida GOP Primary Winner for U.S. House Seat is Ex-Felon, Ineligible for Office

Republican Jason Mariner, the winner of this week's GOP primary election for a U.S. House seat in Florida, is reportedly a convicted felon who is ineligible to hold office in the state.

Mariner, 36, became the Republican nominee for Florida's 20th Congressional District after winning Tuesday's primary with 58 percent of the vote. His past as a convicted felon could be an issue in next month's special election, as Florida law only allows ex-felons to hold office or vote if they have formally applied to have their rights restored.

While the GOP nominee told Florida Politics on Thursday that he had done "nothing" to restore his rights, he insisted that not taking the legal step would have no bearing on his candidacy.

"It's not going to be an issue," Mariner told the outlet in an email. "As I am not an attorney or official in state government, it is not really my place to answer your legal or procedural questions about Florida law, applicable scenarios, etc., or advise you legally."

Mariner also noted that he was registered to vote. It is not clear whether Mariner has voted since being convicted of felonies and released from prison, but doing so would not be legal in Florida unless his rights had been restored.

Florida Politics reported that Mariner had signed a sworn statement with the Florida Division of Elections in August that attested to his eligibility, while the outlet could find no evidence that his rights had been restored.

Mariner was released from prison in 2013 after being incarcerated for felonies that included grand theft, possession of cocaine, trafficking in stolen property and obstructing an investigation. He was also jailed for violently resisting arrest in 2007.

The Republican candidate has not made a secret of his past as a felon, touting his drug addiction and turning his life around while on the campaign trail. He is currently the manager of a West Palm Beach advertising firm.

Florida Republican Congressional Nominee Ex-Felon Election Eligibility
Ex Felon Jason Mariner, who won the Republican nomination for Florida's 20th Congressional District on Tuesday, reportedly said that he had done "nothing" to restore his right to hold office and vote under Florida law. This undated file photo shows a person holding an "I Voted Today" button over a ballot box while standing in front of an American flag. 24K-Production/Getty

Mariner, who defeated fellow Republican candidate Greg Musselwhite in the primary, celebrated his victory on social media shortly after the race was called. The victorious candidate warned "socialists" and "RINOS," also known as "Republicans in Name Only," that he would not let them "ruin" the country.

"It has been a long and hard road, and I would like to congratulate @Greg Musselwite on a hard fought campaign," Mariner wrote on Facebook. "And, while I'm at it, I'd like to let all the socialists know that I am here now, and same to the RINOS, you will not ruin our AMERICA!"

If Mariner's candidacy is allowed to move forward, it is not clear who he will be facing off against when the special election takes place on January 11. The winner of the Democratic primary is pending a recount due to the top two candidates being separated by only three votes.

Regardless, it will be difficult for Mariner or any other Republican to win the seat as the district skews heavily Democratic. The election is being held to find a replacement for former Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings, who died of pancreatic cancer in April. Hastings defeated Musselwhite in the 2020 election with a 78 percent share of the vote.

Newsweek reached out to Mariner for comment.