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Keisha Bell to again challenge Wengay Newton in HD 70

Bell finished second in a three-way race last year.

Tampa Bay area lawyer Keisha Bell will again challenge Rep. Wengay Newton in House District 70 next year, she announced Wednesday.

Both Bell and Newton are Democrats, but Newton has been criticized by some within his own party for siding with Republicans on some issues. That includes supporting a bill increasing funding for school vouchers to send public school students to private school and a toll road proposal unpopular among most Democrats.

That project would extend the now 60-mile Suncoast Parkway from its current terminus north of Spring Hill along 150-miles of pristine rural land and another 150-mile toll road from Lakeland to Naples as well as 30 miles of tolled expressway connecting Wildwood to the new span of the Suncoast Parkway.

“We are in critical times, and I will fight for what our district needs – greater resources and funding for our public schools; high quality healthcare that people can afford; and environmental justice,” Bell said.

Bell’s parents were both teachers. She’s centering her campaign platform on public education, health care, the environment and any other areas Bell says the state “can do better.”

“Throughout my life, I have never been one to sit on the sidelines. I have always fought for those in need, for those who might not have a voice. I did that as a legal aid attorney, and when I spearheaded the Youth Conference Program. And when I go to Tallahassee, I will continue to be the voice of the voiceless and a fierce advocate for the people in district 70,” Bell said.

House District 70 includes parts of Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee and Sarasota counties. Bell is a St. Pete native.

Bell finished second in a three-way primary against Newton and Vito Sheeley last year. She finished about 3,000 votes behind Newton with 36 percent of the vote. Newton won 49 percent of the vote with Sheeley earning just 15 percent.

Bell is so far the only Democrat to primary Newton in the 2020 election. She hasn’t posted any fundraising activity so far. Meanwhile, Newton has already raised more than $19,500.

The winner of the Democratic Primary will face Sharon Russ, a Republican who often runs for office, but seldom gains traction. Russ has also not yet posted any fundraising activity.

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Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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