Today we turn our attention away from Hurricane Idalia for a moment.
To this guy.
His name is Jesse Rumson. Unless familiar with Jesse, you may not recognize him without his infamous panda head. The one he wore on Jan. 6, 2021.
He wants to be your next Citrus County commissioner from District 5. He has the following qualifications:
— Rumson resides in Citrus County.
— He is of voting age.
— He is registered to vote.
And…that’s about it.
Oh, and this: He’s been in Washington, D.C. and walked the halls of the Capitol. Or stormed them. Depends on your definition of “entered.”
So, here we are. A candidate for County Commission with no qualifications to speak of, rushed onto the campaign trail by a wing of Citrus County Republicans whose purpose in life is disruption.
And they have their man.
Let’s get into it.
Setting the stage: Three County Commission seats are on the ballot next year: District 1 (incumbent Jeff Kinnard), District 3 (Ruthie Davis Schlabach) and District 5 (Holly Davis). Of the three incumbents, Kinnard is the only one formally in re-election mode, though I haven’t heard anything to suggest the others won’t run again as well.
Kinnard thus far is unopposed, as he was in his 2020 re-election. District 3 has a candidate from a political party few have heard of to keep the Republican primary closed (I’ve covered the open/closed primaries extensively), and District 5 has both our favorite NPA, Paul Grogan, and now Jesse.
Jesse reached out to me and I was delighted to meet him for a Cattle Dog chat.
So, about Jesse: He’s a Citrus County native, graduated from Lecanto High School. It’s not correct to say he’s lived here all his life because Jesse went out West for a spell, working odd jobs, living in a camper, doing life as it came.
He returned home and continued a rather ordinary existence. His parents died tragically within a short time span, and Jesse now lives in the house he grew up in with his brother.
He’s not what one would call political. He’s never met Commissioner Davis, doesn’t write letters to the editor, and isn’t involved in community activities.
One day a friend showed up at his house. Going to Washington for the Jan. 6 rally, it’ll be peace, love and a general feeling of togetherness. Wanna come?
Sure, why not? Jesse grabbed his panda head, a “don’t tread on me” flag and whatever else he needed in a backpack and headed to our nation’s capital.
Jesse described the crowd as peaceful and loving. From his memory it sounded like a Beach Boys concert, and not a violent overthrow of the government, which is the way it seemed to us back home watching on TV.
I mean…look at the security video. It’s easy to spot Jesse, who picked up the moniker “Sedition panda” after his arrest. (Here's the FBI affidavit.)
The panda head was a protest about China. Jesse tried to explain it to me but it’s all kind of immaterial now. The truth is may never have been identified and arrested if not for that panda head so whatever political point he wanted to make, I hope it’s worth possible time in federal prison.
The Trump-leaning North Suncoast Conservative Club invited the “J6 victim” to speak at its meeting in April and, wouldn’t you know it, Jesse was a County Commission candidate a month later.
Now, before we Republicans go all crazy for young Jesse, remember this:
Jesse’s been no-party affiliation all his voting life. Citrus County Trumpers, led by a shifty sort of troublemakers, heard Jesse’s story and immediately saw him on the Republican ballot against Davis, who is considered moderate in their eyes.
Jesse is no more Republican than Joe Biden’s dog. He (Jesse, not the dog) only joined the GOP at the behest of these Citrus County political geniuses.
As for county issues, not much there. I have this basic rule about County Commission candidates: They should be more informative than your basic Chronicle Sound Off caller. Jesse has Sound Off nailed.
I challenged him to take the following months before the election season really kicks in to learn about county government and his diverse community. We'll see how he's doing in the spring.
Jesse Rumson of Lecanto, who faces federal charges after joining a mob storming the Capitol while wearing a panda head, wants your vote for county commissioner.
Makes perfect sense.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.