Former state Rep. Wengay Newton will remain on the August Primary ballot for House District 62 after a qualifying fee check error — a chronicle that involves a hacked campaign account, a bank low on toner and a ticking deadline.
Newton, who served in the House from 2016 through 2020, initially paid his qualifying fee via a check to the Division of Elections on June 12, about a week before the June 17 qualifying deadline.
Several days later, however, Newton was alerted by the Division of Elections that the check, worth $1,781, was not honored by the bank. Why? Low toner.
Newton told Florida Politics the issue was from the check itself, which was too faded to read by the bank — specifically the numbers at the bottom of the check. Documents from the Division of Elections back up that claim.
“Check is very light but is off campaign account. Paperwork seems to be in order,” notes qualifying paperwork filed by the Division of Elections, dated June 14. According to campaign finance records, Newton has at least $20,954 in his campaign account, having raised $29,830 total and spent $8,876 so far.
Newton told Florida Politics he had to get new checks from the bank after his campaign account got hacked, leading the campaign to establish new account numbers and information. He added that the campaign quickly resolved the hacking issue.
“I had to get rid of check cards and credit checks and everything — I had to start from scratch,” Newton said. “When it came time for qualifying, I had to get my checks from the bank, the bank printed me out the checks.”
In a letter to Newton, Bureau of Election Records chief Donna Brown notified the candidate on June 24 that the check was dishonored, and that he had exactly two business days to correct the error or potentially risk his qualification. At the time, Newton was traveling with his wife to New Orleans.
The issue was resolved, however, when Newton hand-delivered a much more readable cashier’s check to the office on June 27 — one day before the deadline. He later had to pay an $82 “dishonored check processing fee” required by the state, which he overnighted this week.
So, for now, things seem to be back in order for Newton’s campaign.
He’ll appear on the August Primary ballot against incumbent Michele Rayner, who succeeded Newton in the 2020 Primary Election. Her victory was noteworthy, as she was the first openly gay woman of color elected to the Legislature. A third Democratic candidate, Jesse Philippe, also is in the race.
The winner of the Democratic Primary will face Republican Jeremy Brown in the November General Election. However, the Republican candidate may struggle to win in the deep-blue district, which saw 72% support for President Joe Biden in the 2020 elections, and only 27% for Donald Trump.
Newton served eight years on the St. Petersburg City Council. He did not seek re-election in 2020 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. In 2021, Newton unsuccessfully sought the St. Petersburg Mayoral seat, which was ultimately won by Ken Welch.