Former state Representative and St. Petersburg City Council member Wengay Newton is running for Mayor.
Newton filed paperwork with the City Clerk Friday seeking the city’s top elected post. He also announced his candidacy on Facebook.
“Today, I put all the speculation to rest and filed to be the next Mayor of St. Petersburg,” Newton wrote. “After 12 consecutive years of governance I return home with the relationships and bridges that I’ve built to continue moving our city forward. I ask for your prayers, blessings and support in the next phase of the rest of my life serving the people of St. Petersburg.”
Newton served eight years on City Council and was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2016. He did not seek reelection this year in order to run for Pinellas County Commission, a race he lost in the August primary to former Pinellas County School Board member Rene Flowers who was ultimately elected to the board in November.
Newton will face, at a minimum, former City Council colleague Darden Rice and former Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch, who Newton had sought to replace on the commission.
His entrance into the race sets up at least some partisan posturing in the race. While Newton is a Democrat he has often sided with Republicans on some issues, such as on a controversial toll road and on school choice issues.
Newton also backed former Mayor Rick Baker when he ran against Mayor Rick Kriseman four years ago. Baker is a Republican, Kriseman a Democrat.
That could pose problems for Rice who, based on campaign finance activity in her affiliated political committee, Friends of Darden Rice, has been courting Baker supporters, including Republicans.
So far no Republican candidate has stepped forward to run next year. Sen. Jeff Brandes has been rumored a potential candidate, but as so far said he doesn’t intend to run. City Council member Robert Blackmon is also a potential candidate, but has not officially said if he will run. Even more quiet is City Council member Ed Montanari, widely believed to potentially be the GOP’s best shot at the Mayor’s office.
Kriseman is leaving office next year due to term limits.