Florida state Rep. Michele Rayner announces campaign for House seat

"I am running for Congress because I believe that is where I can do the most good for my community," Rayner said.

Florida State Rep. Michele Rayner, the first openly LGBTQ Black woman to serve in the Legislature, is eyeing Rep. Charlie Crist’s seat in the state’s 13th Congressional District.

Rayner, 39, formally announced her candidacy on Monday at the Lighthouse Church of Jesus in Largo — a church built and founded by her grandparents, the Tampa Bay Times reports. 

“I am truly honored and grateful for the opportunity to make my case to the people of Florida’s 13th Congressional District,” the Pinellas County native said in a statement Monday.


Last year, Rayner won District 70 with about 30% of the vote in the elections for the Florida House of Representatives. 

“I am running for Congress because I believe that is where I can do the most good for my community: the community that raised me, the community that I love. We need representatives in Congress who understand that politics is a calling to public service, not self-service,” Rayner said. “Democratic attempts to provide economic relief, racial justice, and public safety for the people of Florida have been stymied time and time again by far-right, partisan Republicans in Florida’s legislature. The systemic nature of the issues we are facing had me looking at where I can make the most impactful changes.”

As reported by The Hill, next year in the Democratic primary she will face off against fellow state Rep. Ben Diamond and Eric Lynn, a former Obama administration adviser. 

“We know that Tallahassee is broken,” Rayner told the Tampa Bay Times. “I think it’s become more clear every day how broken it is and we need leadership on the federal level.”

Rayner is focused on elevating herself to a position where she can “best serve” her community.

“Public service has been at the center of every decision I make,” she said. “What we know about Tallahassee is that’s it’s very broken and it’s been broken for a very long time. … My whole life has been about my public service. … It comes down to where I can do the most good.”

Michele Rayner thegrio.com
(Credit: Michele Rayner via Facebook)

Her major concerns at the moment are environmental justice issues, increasing the federal minimum wage, and accessible health care. Rayner said she is not discouraged by the prospect that the district lines could change.

“That was not a concern for me,” said Rayner, who noted that she has discussed redistricting with family members and community members. “I’m prepared to defend this seat.”

The former public defender who is married and now works in civil rights law acknowledged the challenges she may face with Republican control of the state legislature.

“What we want together done in Tallahassee is not going to get done there,” she said. “We need to make sure we have strong voices and strong advocates in D.C.”

According to her bio on her website, Rayner lives in St. Petersburg with her wife Bianca.

Have you subscribed to theGrio’s new podcast “Dear Culture”? Download our newest episodes now!

TheGrio is now on Apple TV, Amazon Fire, and Roku. Download theGrio today!