Brother John Muhammad will not run for St. Pete City Council
Brother John Muhammad takes the seat formerly held by Lisa Wheeler-Bowman.

Muhammad ART
His decision leaves a path for former City Council member Wengay Newton and football star Donald Bowens Jr.

Brother John Muhammad, the representative on St. Petersburg City Council District 7 who was appointed in late 2022, will not seek election to the seat.

Muhammad, in a post on Facebook and on a website he uses to provide updates to constituents, said the “decision did not come lightly.”

“I want to express my gratitude for the support and encouragement I have received from so many of you,” he wrote.

Muhammad was appointed in October of 2022 after former City Council member Lisa Wheeler-Bowman resigned amid questions pertaining to her residency. A private citizen uncovered that Wheeler-Bowman had moved from her District 7 home and was residing in another district. 

The City Council vote to appoint Muhammad as her replacement was close, at just 4-3. He had support from Mayor Ken Welch and County Commissioner Rene Flowers. 

But his appointment came with controversy. Muhammad faced backlash from some City Council member, the Florida Holocaust Museum and other Jewish groups for his support for Louis Farrakhan, a Nation of Islam adherent who the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled an anti-Semite. 

Muhammad did not mention any of that controversy in his letter notifying constituents of his decision. Instead, he said his decision “is not a reflection of a lack of commitment or dedication.”

“On the contrary, it stems from a sincere belief that my skills and efforts can be more impactful outside the realm of elected office,” Muhammad wrote. “I remain steadfast in my commitment to being an asset and a resource for whomever the voters choose as the District 7 representative.”

Indeed, Muhammad has an extensive resume of community-based advocacy. He has worked in leading roles with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in the Tampa Bay area, and worked to help pass the city of St. Pete’s wage theft ordinance, a “hard to hire” city policy and the city’s $15 minimum wage for employees. He also works with Florida Rising, a group that builds political power among marginalized communities, and was an active member of the group pushing for a rent stabilization measure in the city.

Muhammad said he initially had “every intention” of seeking election to the seat for which he was appointed, but has “come to the conclusion that stepping back from the race will allow me to give my undivided attention to completing the work I started during my term.”

He said he plans to work with constituents “to develop a community-led agenda that is in the best interest of the community.” 

“I am grateful for the support and encouragement I have received throughout this process,” Muhammad continued. “Rest assured, I will continue to be actively involved in our community, advocating for the issues that matter most to all of us.”

Muhammad’s term ends Jan. 2. Two candidates are currently vying for the seat — North Carolina State football star Donald Bowens Jr. and Wengay Newton, a former state Representative who served on St. Pete City Council in District 7 for two terms from 2008 until 2012. Newton is able to run for the seat again because term limits reset after a representative has been out of office for at least two terms, a provision Newton satisfies. 

This will be the first city election held on an even-numbered year. Previously, City Council and mayoral contests were held in off-years. 

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected].


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