Race for Charlie Crist’s U.S. seat intensifies with State Rep. Michele Rayner confirming candidacy

By: - June 14, 2021 1:52 pm

State Rep. Michele Rayner. Credit: Rayner’s Facebook page and campaign website.

Michele Rayner, a civil rights attorney and Democratic state lawmaker who could become one of the first openly queer Black women to serve in Congress, announced Monday that she is running to fill the U.S. House seat held by U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist.

Rayner, who recently won a seat in the Florida House of Representative — she began serving Nov. 4, 2020 — is taking on a crowded race for a seat in Congress. Crist left the 13th Congressional district, based in Pinellas County,  to run for governor in 2022, opening the door for other candidates.

At a press conference Monday at the Lighthouse Church of Jesus in Largo, Rayner acknowledged her announcement to run for Congress was made during Pride Month.

But she said is running to continue to tackle issues such as access to quality education, affordable health care, environment issues, systemic racism and more.

“These are serious problems that require serious public servants working to address them,” Rayner said. “It’s not lost on me that I am making this announcement during Pride Month – a time we recognize how far LGBTQ folks have come and how far we have to go.”

Rayner continued:

“And I understand, if elected, that I will be one of the first openly queer Black women to serve in Congress. I say that because I want to go ahead and say that that is not why I am running…because I am running to continue to serve my community with the same determination, tenacity, selflessness and commitment to public service that I have employed throughout my whole time here in Florida.”

Rayner was also the first openly Black LGBTQ woman to be elected to the Florida Legislature last year, POLITICO reported.

Rayner said during the press conference that she lost her dad in December of 2020 and her campaign is “about bringing all of our communities together to create positive change in this society.”

“It’s about public service…this campaign is very personal for me,” she said. “My vision is for my community and this state – and indeed – I believe the whole United States to be governed by representatives and people who truly serve their constituents – not themselves.”

Meanwhile, two other Democrats and a Republican have also entered the Congressional race to fill Crist’s seat, as previously reported by the Florida Phoenix.

Those Democratic candidates who both made announcements in May are Eric Lynn, former foreign policy adviser to President Barack Obama, and Ben Diamond, a Florida House member from Pinellas County.

Also running is Anna Paulina Luna, a Republican and an Air Force veteran who lost to Crist in last year’s November election. In a May 3 tweet, Luna said, “It’s time for career politicians and Nancy Pelosi puppets like @CharlieCrist to pack their bags. We are sending the home in 2022.”

Rayner lives in St. Petersburg with her wife Bianca Goolsby, according to her state House website. Rayner represents parts of Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee and Sarasota counties in the state House.

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Issac Morgan
Issac Morgan

Issac Morgan is a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Journalism, and a proud native of Tallahassee. He has covered city council and community events at the Gadsden County Times, worked as a sports news assistant at the Tallahassee Democrat, a communications specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and as a proofreader at the Florida Law Weekly.