St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch is endorsing Rep. Michele Rayner for re-election in the state House.
The pair have both broken barriers upon their respective elections. Welch became St. Petersburg’s first Black Mayor after a victorious campaign in 2021, and Rayner is the first openly gay Black woman to be elected to the Legislature.
“Rep. Michele Rayner has been a champion for the people of Pinellas County since well before she was elected to serve in the Florida House and I’m proud to endorse her in her re-election campaign,” Welch said in a statement.
“I know she will continue her record of advocacy for the people as she continues to serve in Tallahassee. I look forward to our ongoing collaboration on issues and actions that improve the lives of all those who call Pinellas County home. With an affordable housing crisis, rising cost of living and uncertainty about the future, Floridians need a champion for the people more than ever, and Michele is that champion.”
Rayner recently suspended her congressional bid due to a controversial redistricting plan which turned Florida’s 13th Congressional District from purple to a light shade of red. The new district extends further north into traditionally red parts of Pinellas County and eliminates parts of St. Petersburg, the currently drawn district’s largest city and a Democratic stronghold.
Rayner currently represents House District 70, which covers parts of Hillsborough, Pinellas and Manatee counties. With the new maps, she’ll be running in House District 62, pitting her against former Democratic Rep. Wengay Newton in the Primary.
Newton held the HD 70 seat before Rayner. Notably, he ran an unsuccessful campaign for Mayor of St. Pete in 2021, pitting him against Welch in the Primary. But Rayner is bringing in a hefty war chest from her congressional race. Newton’s campaign has raised just under $28,000, while Rayner’s has more than $220,000 in cash on hand.
Rayner is a civil rights lawyer and social justice advocate who previously served as an Assistant Public Defender, legislative aide and counsel for the local NAACP Legal Defense Fund.