Deborah Gibson, a Delray Beach business owner who said unsuccessful U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore dated her when she was 17 and he was 34, has announced her candidacy for a seat in the Florida House of Representatives.
In an interview Tuesday with The Palm Beach Post, Gibson, 54, said she thought about running for public office from time to time because family members had served in elected office in Alabama, where she was raised.
But it was the election of Donald Trump, she said, that helped her cast aside the notion that someone seeking political office had to have special qualifications to be elected.
“I thought, ‘This is going extremely badly,’” Gibson said of the nation’s politics. “He doesn’t represent any particular party. It made me think you don’t have to be qualified.”
Trump supported Moore despite the allegations levied against the former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice by Gibson and other women who said he dated teenagers and sexually molested a girl.
Moore, Gibson said, lived about seven miles from where she lived with her family in Etowah County, Ala. She has said their dating was consensual, though she added: “Now that I’m an adult, a mother of daughters, I know that wasn’t a good decision.”
Moore’s candidacy was a rallying point for many women and a source of division among Republicans, some of whom backed him as a means of keeping the Senate seat he sought in GOP hands.
But, Moore was defeated by Doug Jones, a Democrat.
“I have no idea if I impacted that race,” Gibson said. “I’ll never know. Doug Jones was a great candidate; Roy Moore was a miserable candidate.”
Gibson said her own candidacy springs from the encouragement of people who have heard her speak in favor of female empowerment and fair play.
“About a month ago, I went to the doctor’s office,” she said. “A secretary there said, ‘Can you run? Go to D.C.’ I said, ‘C’mon. That’s not realistic. I need to start with something quite a bit smaller.’”
Gibson said she started thinking about an office that made sense for her and decided to run in state House District 89, whose Republican representative, Bill Hager, can’t run again for the seat because of term limits.
“It’s going to be a new person,” she said.
District 89 stretches along the coast from North Palm Beach down to Boca Raton.
Gibson, who had been a registered Republican, said she is running as a Democrat.
“I felt that the (Republican) party moved, not just me,” she said.
Qualifying for the House race begins on June 18. The primary is scheduled to be held on August 28, with the general election set for November 6.
Gibson’s campaign announcement on Crowdpac, a political fundraising site, notes that she has received 12 donations totaling $1,760 — 8 percent of her goal of $25,000.
She said has a sense of what she wants for Delray Beach, where she lives and runs a sign-language firm. Those priorities include combating beach erosion, encouraging appropriate development, fighting sober homes and finding a way to get more people access to mental health care.
Gibson, who has lived in Palm Beach County for 32 years, said she will go on “a listening tour” in other municipalities to learn more about what they need.
“I’m a new face to this whole area,” she said of her entrance into politics. “I have a lot of learning to do.”
In November, after detailing her relationship with Moore for The Washington Post, Gibson filed a report with Delray Beach police, saying she was harassed and threatened on social media.
She told The Palm Beach Post Tuesday that she felt sufficiently frightened, prompting her to leave town, spending a week at a hotel in “an undisclosed location.”
Accusations that she was paid by Democrats to sully Moore are not true, she said.
“It cost me emotionally and financially,” she said. “I not only didn’t get paid, I lost a week of pay.”
There were other costs as well, Gibson said.
“I have friends since second grade that I lost,” she said. “It’s been hard.”
Despite the toll, Gibson said she’s not sorry she described her experiences with Moore.
“I never had any problem with my moral compass,” she said.
More women are running for political office to make sure their voices are heard, Gibson said.
“It’s time to step into our power and find our voices,” she said. “We’re grossly under-represented in our government.”
Florida House District 89
Candidate: Deborah Gibson
Work experience: Founder and owner of Signs of Excellence, a sign-language firm
Political experience: None
Family: Divorced, mother of two