Michele Rayner picked up three major endorsements this week, her campaign announced Wednesday.
Ruth’s List Florida, SEIU Florida and Sen. Darryl Rouson are all throwing their weight behind Rayner in her race for House District 70.
Rayner is one of four Democrats running to replace Rep. Wengay Newton in the district. Newton is not seeking reelection and is instead running for Pinellas County Commission.
Ruth’s List is a huge get and comes with potential substantial funding support. The group, formed in 2008, works to elect Democratic women to public office. Since its founding, the statewide organization has raised more than $5 million, elected 125 women to state and local office and trained more than 2,100 others. The group helped flip 21 seats blue in the 2018 election, with 40% of those victories belonging to women of color.
“We are committed to electing progressive women to lead our state. Ruth’s List Florida was founded to support, train and recruit trailblazer women. Michele Rayner’s proven leadership demonstrates that she is committed and ready to serve the constituents of District 70 as State Representative,” said Interim CEO Barbara Zdravecky. “Michele is a trailblazer who has stood up for our environment, education and civil rights. We are confident she will have an impact in Tallahassee and lead Florida towards a more progressive and equitable future for all.”
Rouson’s endorsement also carries weight. He formerly represented the district before being elected to the Senate. He also previously served as president of the St. Petersburg NAACP.
“Challenging times require leaders to step up; Michele Rayner has already stepped up,” Rouson said. “She demanded justice for the McGlockton family and got it. She saw the need for a bail fund for peaceful protesters erroneously arrested, and she started a $250,000 fund for their bail. Michele walks the walk, and as someone who served in the HD 70 seat, I can say she is ready to go.”
Rayner is a civil rights and social justice attorney in the Tampa Bay area and has tried both local and national high-profile cases in Pinellas County.
She was one of the attorneys who represented the McDonald’s employee attacked by a customer in south St. Pete. Video of the attack went viral after the employee fought back against her attacker, who was later arrested.
She also represented the family of Markeis McGlockton, a man gunned down in a Clearwater parking lot in 2018 whose case reignited debate about Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law.
“My mother was one of the first Black social-workers in St. Petersburg. It does not escape me how far we have come and how many firsts have been accomplished by women, especially women of color, since then,” Rayner said.
“I know the importance of representation and just as importantly, the service that I can provide to my community. I will make sure our teachers are paid fairly, to expand access to healthcare, and to ensure that all residents have consistent access to clean air and water. I am excited and honored about Ruth’s List’s and Senator Rouson’s support of my campaign and SEIU’s trust in my ability to fight for Florida’s hardworking families.”
Rayner faces Keisha Bell, Mark Oliver and Michelle Grimsley in the August 18 primary. No Republican filed for the deep blue seat, meaning the primary will be open to Republicans and third or no party-affiliated voters.