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Mystery Florida Senate candidate was planning move to Sweden

Mystery Florida Senate candidate was planning move to Sweden

A woman in Central Florida who ran for the state Senate as an independent candidate was reportedly making plans to move to Sweden well before the November 2020 election was underway. 

According to an investigation by the Miami Herald, McClatchy and the Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter, the campaign of 35-year-old Jestine Iannotti, who now lives in a suburb of the Swedish capital of Stockholm, was fueled by advertisements from dark money political groups. 

Immigration documents obtained by the news outlets showed that Iannotti had already applied for residency in Sweden before she filed to run for a seat in the Florida Senate in June.

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A reporter recently approached Iannotti at her Stockholm apartment, where the onetime no-party candidate lives with her boyfriend and their 16-month-old twin sons. 

According to the Herald, the woman fled into her apartment when the reporter attempted to ask her questions and later refused to comment when she was again seen outside. 

The Herald reported that Iannotti’s last known address was in Winter Springs, Fla., located about 23 miles north of Orlando. 

Iannotti ran as a candidate in the District 9 race against former GOP state Rep. Jason Brodeur, who won the Senate seat, and Democratic candidate Patricia Sigman.

Brodeur defeated Sigman by 7,644 votes, with Ianotti receiving support from 5,787 voters, or approximately 2.1 percent of the vote. 

The Herald reported that independent mail advertisements paid for by a dark money group, which is not required to reveal its donors, included a photo of a Black woman and read, “Jestine’s got our back.” 

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However, the flyer sparked controversy at the time because the image used was a stock photo and Iannotti is white. 

The findings come after The New York Times reported earlier this month that Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzTroubles grow for Gaetz as former associate flips Gaetz associate pleads guilty Gaetz compares allegations against him to earmarks: 'Everybody knows that that's the corruption' MORE (R-Fla.) had discussed with lobbyist Christ Dorworth the possibility of running a sham candidate in Brodeur’s election in order to boost his chances. 

While there are no laws against recruiting a third-party candidate to run for office, it is illegal to provide money to “ghost candidates” to help their efforts in drawing votes away from another candidate. 

It was not clear in the Times report if payments were discussed in the reported conversation between Gaetz and Dorworth. 

A spokesperson for Brodeur told the Times earlier this month that he had no knowledge about the fliers with the stock photo, and Dorworth told the Times that he could not recall a conversation with Gaetz on running a third-party candidate. 

Dorworth also pointed out at the time that “there would be nothing illegal about it if we had,” so long as they did not pay the candidate. 

The Hill has reached out to Gaetz and Dorworth for comment on the Herald’s report.