Michele Rayner won’t change plans, message as she continues run in newly drawn CD 13
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. 2/10/22-Rep. Michele K. Rayner, D-St. Petersburg, speaks during session, Thursday at the Capitol in Tallahassee. COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

Rayner believes she is the best challenger to face '(Donald) Trump acolyte' Anna Paulina Luna.

State Rep. Michele Rayner won’t let the changes in a congressional map sway her ambitions.

“When I decided to run for Congress, I decided to run for Congress,” she said.

In fact, the St. Petersburg Democrat feels there is as much reason to stay in the race for Florida’s 13th Congressional District as ever. Under a new map, the seat goes from one Democrat Joe Biden won by 4 percentage points in the 2020 Presidential Election to one Republican Donald Trump carried by 7 points. But coming from a working-class St. Petersburg family, Rayner won’t accept that the community has suddenly become Trump country.

A lawyer who would be the first Black queer woman in Congress, Rayner sees herself as the best chance Democrats have against Republican front-runner Anna Paulina Luna.

“I don’t think I can sit idly by and watch a Trump acolyte walk into this seat,” she said.

Other Democrats in the race include state Rep. Ben Diamond and Eric Lynn, a veteran of the Barack Obama administration. While Diamond’s current Florida House district was entirely drawn out of the new configuration of CD 13, a small portion of Rayner’s district remains. That actually means the new draw has made her the candidate who represents the most constituents in the new seat.

But she’s also the candidate with the easiest escape hatch. She could win another three terms in the Florida House before term limits kick in. But Rayner says she intends to stick with a congressional run.

Rayner this month was part of a Democratic protest led by Black lawmakers against the new congressional map. Designed by Gov. Ron DeSantis’ staff after the Governor vetoed a plan approved by the Legislature, critics say the map eliminates two of four congressional seats where Black voters can elect a candidate of their choice. The map passed an hour after the protest and was since signed into law by DeSantis.

Rayner has also specifically criticized the new map for its reconfiguration of CD 13 and a decision to have Florida’s 14th Congressional District, represented by Tampa Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, span Tampa Bay much like a seat tossed by the Florida Supreme Court in 2015.

Rayner believes the voters of Pinellas County will still hear her message regardless of the partisan composition of the district. She has Republican constituents knocking door-to-door for her in the district now, she said.

With a focus on “kitchen table” issues, she expects to find success the same way she did when elected to the House in 2020. She will discuss food deserts and the economic transformation in a post-pandemic world. In that sense, the major planks on Rayner’s agenda will go unchanged whether in this district or on the lines in place when she entered the race.

And CD 13 is Democratic-held now. It’s one Democrats should fight to defend, Rayner argued. “This seat is vitally important,” she said. “It’s a blue seat.”

She dropped a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. as a defining statement of this moment. “I believe the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of convenience and comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy,” she said.

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].


  • Seeking Real Leaders

    April 28, 2022 at 9:39 am

    “She could win another three terms in the Florida House before term limits kick in. But Rayner says she intends to stick with a congressional run.”

    Why would she do that? She bailed on her state House district – one of the most vulnerable in the entire state – literally as quickly as she could. She didn’t use the position to do the only thing Dems in the FL House can accomplish – cut deals and deliver as many budget appropriations to district as possible. She used it as a bully pulpit to build her profile for a run at a $175k/yr job as a backbencher in Congress doing cable news hits. That was the game the whole time – and we the constituents can see that loud and clear. As with many new age politicians on both sides of the aisle, this is not a serious legislator. This is a vanity project.

    • Ron Ogden

      April 28, 2022 at 10:22 am

      Thoughtful take.

Comments are closed.


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