Pinellas civil rights attorney announces run for Crist’s seat, vying to be 1st openly gay Black woman in Congress


TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — State Rep. Michele Rayner, a civil rights attorney and the first openly LGBTQ woman of color in the Florida Legislature, says she is running to replace Rep. Charlie Crist in Congress next year.

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

The Pinellas County native started her legal career as an assistant public defender after graduating from the Florida Coastal School of Law. In recent years, she’s worked as a trial attorney at the Tampa Bay-based Denmon Pearlman Law firm.

Last year, she ran against Keisha Bell and Michelle Grimsley in the elections for the Florida House of Representatives, and won District 70 with about 30% of the vote.

“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.”

In her bid to replace Crist, Rayner faces other big names in Florida politics, including her House colleague, Ben Diamond, and Eric Lynn, a former national security adviser in former President Barack Obama’s administration, both of whom announced runs in May.

If elected, Rayner would be the first openly Queer Black woman to serve in Congress.

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

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