Michele Rayner-Goolsby running to succeed Charlie Crist on FL CD-13

Michele Rayner Headshot
She would be the first LGBTQ member of Congress for Florida.

State Rep. Michele Rayner-Goolsby announced her candidacy for Congress. The St. Petersburg Democrat is running to succeed U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, who is running for Governor.

“We have to put public servants at the center of policymaking,” Rayner said. ”We have to do the will and the work of the people. So many people have lost faith in our institutions.”

Rayner-Goolsby first won election to the Florida House in 2020, when she won a Democratic primary in House District 70. But she will spend just one term in that office before setting her sites on Washington, D.C., after Crist announced he would run for Governor instead of running for another term in Congress.

“It’s not that I want another title,” Rayner-Goolsby said. “You see an opportunity to serve and you step forward to these opportunities. You don’t shirk back.”

Rayner-Goolsby previously worked as a public defender and as a civil rights attorney before winning the open House legislative seat last year.

“When I started my career as a public defender, it’s a job I wanted. It’s not a job that I had to settle for,” she said. “I wanted to do the most good in my legal career.”

Right now, doing the most good means running for a seat in Congress, she said.

Should Rayner-Goolsby win, she will be the first openly LGBTQ candidate ever elected to represent Florida in Congress — or for that matter the entire South.

She believes in the year 2021, there’s a hunger among the electorate for a queer person of color to win election. She also will rely on her ties as a leader in St. Petersburg’s Black community to carry her through a difficult Democratic Primary, where she already faces state rep. Ben Diamond. Eric Lynn, a former national security adviser in former President Barack Obama’s administration, has also announced.

And winning the Primary is only half the battle. Florida’s 13th Congressional District was just rated by Cook Political Report as the most competitive district in the state, the only one in the state with an evenly divided partisan index rating between Democrats and Republicans.

Rayner-Goolsby wants to bring about a definite change in tone in Washington, D.C.

“What we’ve seen in Washington is, we’ve seen Republicans vote against the very bills and legislation that would actually improve the lives of people,” Rayner-Goolsby said. “We’ve seen Republicans vote against a legitimate President, we’ve seen Republicans vote against bills that would expand access to the ballot.”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


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