The Delray Beach business owner who said unsuccessful U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama dated her when she was 17 and he was 34 won’t be running as a Democrat for a seat in the Florida House of Representatives after all.
Deborah Gibson told The Palm Beach Post Thursday that she’s changing to no party affiliation — she had switched from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party in February — so that she can remain a candidate for election in November.
Her previous plans to run as a Democrat were scuttled by a state election law requiring a party’s primary candidate to have been a member of that party for 365 days before the qualifying period of the election.
Qualifying for the District 89 seat Gibson is seeking begins on June 18. Gibson changed her party affiliation on Feb. 18, making her ineligible to run as a Democrat.
She said an attorney with the Florida Department of State confirmed for her that she can run without party affiliation. The Palm Beach Post could not verify her eligibility.
Democrat Jim Bonfiglio, of Ocean Ridge, has filed to run for the seat, which is currently held by state Rep. Bill Hager, a Republican who can’t seek re-election because of term limits.
District 89 includes coastal communities from North Palm Beach south to Boca Raton.
Gibson, 54, could have decided to drop her maiden voyage into elective politics after learning that she could not run as a Democrat. But she said she decided to press on because she believes her candidacy, and the candidacies of other women, is important.
“I made this decision because we need to move forward on the moment in history last fall where the societal shift began away from patriarchy toward more gender equality and diversity inclusion,” she said.
Gibson came to prominence last fall when she and other women told The Washington Post that Moore, then a candidate in a hotly contested U.S. Senate race, dated teenagers when he was in his 30s. One woman said Moore touched her sexually when she was a child.
Moore denied the allegations and remained a candidate in the race. His candidacy — and the support it received from President Trump and other Republicans — drew scorn from many women.
The race became part of a national conversation about how some powerful men view and treat women.
Ultimately, Moore was defeated by his Democratic opponent, former federal prosecutor Doug Jones.
Gibson and other women who described their interactions with Moore said they were harassed and threatened in the aftermath of their comments.
Gibson, who owns a sign language firm in Delray Beach, told The Palm Beach Post on Tuesday that she left town for a week because of the threats.
She added that she does not regret describing her interactions with Moore. And she’s staying in the race.
“I feel that I’m capable of contributing and serving in a meaningful way here in District 89,” she said, “and I am, to my knowledge, the only woman in the race at this time.”