Will Foxy make history?
The outspoken write-in candidate for the State House calls out local corruption, and a broken judicial system—particularly when it comes to addressing those lacking mental capacity.
Robert Fox of Foxy Bail Bonds poses for a photo at Tuscawilla Park in Ocala, Fla. on Monday, Jan. 30, 2023. Fox has filed as a write-in candidate for the Florida House of Representatives District 24 special election to replace Rep. Joe Harding. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2023.
“Downtown Julie Brown!” shouts Robert “Foxy” Fox when the “Gazette” called him to discuss his candidacy for the Florida House of Representatives.
The nickname assigned to this journalist, who has the same first name as a bubbly MTV personality from the late ’80s, instantly pegs Fox as a Gen-Xer, and one could argue that his irreverent approach to the political establishment does too.
Fox, a Republican, is running for the State House-District 24 seat in a special election to be held on May 16 to replace former Rep. Joe Harding, who resigned in December after he was indicted for numerous counts of fraud.
The candidate doesn’t fit neatly into one box. He does things his way while holding fast to the traditions of God and family. Fox compared himself to most American voters, the non-extremists.
He’s running for the State House because he would lose his license as a bail bondsman if he runs for local office; he’s only permitted to run for state or federal office.
In conversation, the owner of the infamously pink Foxy Bail Bonds, private investigator and certified process server meanders from his main points and orates with preacher-like inflections, though he might resemble a colorful character in a Carl Hiaasen novel or a midwestern Danny McBride.
“If I win, I will make history,” Fox proclaimed, saying that he would be the first write-in candidate to win an election.
An everyman who wears a Guy Harvey T-shirt instead of a suit, Fox stresses the importance of bipartisan discourse and said more than once that he would refuse to toe the party line if an idea doesn’t make sense, causes harm to others, or comes from corrupt intentions and “kickbacks.”
“I am a Republican, but I am a person for all people,” Fox said. “I don’t care what your denomination is, if you’re an Independent or if you’re a Democrat. When you go and take office, you have to be almost like a judge, nonpartisan, you tackle the gray areas. The world isn’t black and white, but politics is a dirty game. This is why I want judicial reform. You don’t run for office to get rich. You run for office to make your community a better place.”
Fox was born in Marysville, Ohio, in 1972, the son of the state’s aviation director. He said his family was fairly affluent, but he worked hard to prove himself to his parents and claimed that he held down several jobs at a time since the age of 14.
The youngest of three, one of his brothers called him “Mr. Goody Two Shoes” and gave him his nickname, Foxy, which comes from their surname and a hometown strip joint, Foxy’s Lounge.
Working on lawns and training as a horticulturist at a young age, Fox said he landed a job with Walt Disney World and arrived in Florida around 1990. He moved back and forth a few times between Ohio and Florida. While working in pest control sales, a friend on a softball team encouraged him to try bail bonds.
These days, he lives with his wife, Jennifer George, and 6-year-old daughter, Skylar Belle, who attends Ocala Christian Academy. “She’s my pride and joy,” said Fox.
The upcoming election marks the second time Fox has filed to run for a seat in the Florida House. Last year, he filed to challenge Harding, only to withdraw in May at the request of elected officials. He declined to identify who he said called him to ask that he let Harding run unopposed.
No Democrat or third-party candidate filed for the primary earlier this spring, so the state election laws would have designated the election a universal primary open to all voters in District 24, which encompasses the portion of Marion County with the highest amount of registered voters.
That is, before a write-in candidate would enter the race.
Fox told the “Gazette” in January when he was approached to sign up to be a write-in candidate, by Brett Doster, he acquiesced, thinking it was only fair that only Republicans be able to vote since the other parties did not field their own candidate. He thought, at the time, he was fulfilling a request from the Republican Party, and admitted to hoping it would help facilitate his own political aspirations.
After he did, however, he learned Doster was a paid political consultant working for his opponent, Ryan Chamberlin, and that the supporter had donated money to Chamberlin’s campaign.
When Fox filed to run as a write-in candidate, he didn’t do it to serve the interests of his opponent.
“Damn it, I was duped!” Fox told the “Gazette” back in January.
If elected …
When asked how he most identifies with the Republican Party, Fox harked back to Republican heroes of yesteryear, to Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan, whom he considers the strongest leaders in the party’s history, presidents who weren’t morally perfect but spoke their minds and accomplished whatever they set out to do despite opposition.
He voted for President Donald Trump but called out his allegedly corrupt ways and use of “hush money.” He criticized President Joe Biden as a “do-nothing” commander-in-chief and said he supports Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
And while he believes in the spirit of the 2nd Amendment, he advocates for responsible gun ownership, training and screening, which contradicts the recent permitless carry bill the governor signed into law this month. He called the bill a mistake.
“It can’t be overlooked when the crime rate of shooting people goes up by 100 or 200 or 300 percent in Marion County, which I believe is going to happen,” Fox said. “I believe that the right to bear arms is very important. It’s a constitutional right, but I believe it’s going to bite DeSantis in the butt.”
Fox’s years of dealing directly with judicial system-related work bear credibility. Fox lamented the situation of a criminally charged defendant named Scottie. with Downs syndrome, and others with PTSD and serious addiction problems. He has also seen what he considers an inordinate amount of DUI arrests, what he considers in this state “a cash grab.”
Fox first got the idea to run for office at a Marion County Board of County Commissioners meeting last year when Sheriff Billy Woods requested $1.1 million of unspent funds from prior budget years to be used on a remodel and expansion of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office operations.
In a letter to MCBOCC Chair Cark Zalak III, Woods requested $1,098,486 from the Municipal Service Taxing Unit budget, $987,062 from the county-wide budget, and the remaining funds would be collected as part of the one-cent sales tax in order to fund the projects.
Funding a building seemed preposterous to Fox. He offered other ideas on how he would spend money allocated to local law enforcement.
“I would seek federal funding for the State of Florida,” Fox said, “and I’d want it to trickle down to every single county in the state for the simple fact that, realistically, there are only around five counties that I know of that have advocates for people with mental health challenges. They’re licensed and employed by the 911 system, which is usually the Sheriff’s Office. They listen to the phone calls, and they assess a phone call, if it sounds more like a mental-health or a criminal situation.”
And what about the mentally ill inmates shuffling through the state prison system?
“We need programs,” he said, “community programs that can help with mentally, mentally ill people that can’t work like the Scotties of the world.”