Rene Flowers endorses Michele Rayner, a jab at former opponent Wengay Newton

Flowers bested Newton in 2020 for a seat on the Pinellas County Commission.

Pinellas County Commissioner Rene Flowers is backing Rep. Michele Rayner in her run for House District 62 — a slight jab to Flowers’ former opponent, Wengay Newton, who faces Rayner in the upcoming Democratic Primary.

Flowers was first elected to the Pinellas County Commission in 2020, a race where she bested Newton with 52% of the vote to his 33%. Flowers was re-elected to the Commission without opposition in June. Before working on the Commission, Flowers was a member of the Pinellas County School Board.

In announcing her support for Rayner, Flowers slammed the Legislature’s GOP leadership, perhaps to point out Newton’s ties to former Republican colleagues. Although the former Representative touts an ability to work with Republicans — running with support from the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Fraternal Order of Police — Flowers slammed the party in power.

“Over the years, I have watched the legislative sessions end with the continued erosion of basic human needs for people of color,” Flowers said in a statement. “The party in leadership passed legislation that hinders health care, food security, education, housing, job training and the right to vote, as well as the erosion of home rule and freedom of speech.”

“We need Michele Rayner in Tallahassee because she will support legislation that embraces the needs of all people. We need a voice representing District 62 who will not fade out in the midst of proposed legislation that does not address the needs of Floridians. Michele will speak up and speak out against the attacks on teachers and vulnerable communities and will be present at committee meetings.”

Rayner has earned endorsements from a slew of fellow Democratic legislators, including Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book. Rayner has also seen endorsements from State Attorney Andrew Warren, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and St. Petersburg Mayor Ken Welch.

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.

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. A third candidate, Jesse Philippe, is also racing for the Democratic nomination.

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.

Kelly Hayes

Kelly Hayes studied journalism and political science at the University of Florida. Kelly was born and raised in Tampa Bay. A recent graduate, she enjoys government and legal reporting. She has experience covering the Florida Legislature as well as local government, and is a proud Alligator alum. You can reach Kelly at [email protected].


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