State Rep. Michele Rayner has announced a slate of new endorsements from Pinellas County leaders as she heads into the Democratic Primary for House District 62.
New endorsers include Pinellas County Commissioner Pat Gerard, who has served on the Commission since 2014. Before being elected to the Commission, Gerard served as the first female Mayor of Largo for eight years.
Rayner also announced endorsements from five of the eight members of the St. Petersburg City Council, including Deborah Figgs-Sanders, Richie Floyd, Brandi Gabbard, Copley Gerdes and Lisa Wheeler–Bowman.
“In a time when justice for all should be a collaborative effort of all our lawmakers; we have seen, with proven evidence, the inequities and that there is still a struggle with the injustices of our nation and our state. This is the moment where we must put action to words as a collective and I trust Rep. Rayner to continue her dedication to boldly address these disparities,” Figgs-Sanders said in a statement.
“Rep. Rayner is not only a historic and outstanding candidate, but she is a proven leader who has worked across the aisle to bring home results. Our workers, our neighborhoods, and our St. Petersburg culture has benefitted from her service.”
Largo City Commissioner Michael Smith, Gulfport City Commissioners Paul Ray and April Thanos and former St. Pete City Council member Steve Kornell also offered their support.
“Rep. Michele Rayner has made food more accessible in our neighborhoods through policy and on-the-ground organizing,” Wheeler-Bowman said in a statement.
“When families were looking for groceries during the holidays, she was behind the food drives or passing out gift cards to those in need. When our vulnerable and historically excluded communities struggled to access COVID-19 vaccines, Rep. Michele Rayner was there using her platforms in the name of equity. She has been there for us and we will be there for her at the polls in August.”
Rayner has picked up a slew of endorsements from Tampa Bay Democratic leaders since reentering the state legislative race. Most recently, Rayner reported endorsements from St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch and Tampa Mayor Jane Castor.
Rayner 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. 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.