A Democrat has filed to run against St. Petersburg Rep. Wengay Newton in House District 70, setting up a possible primary for the first-term representative.
Vito Sheeley opened up his campaign account for the seat on Friday and is the only candidate running against Newton, who took over for now Sen. Darryl Rouson after winning a three-way Democratic against Dan Fiorini and Chris Czaia.
“I want more for the community I’ve lived in my whole life,” Sheeley said in a release sent after SPB broke the news of him running. “I’ve had the honor to work with our elected representatives on issues like affordable housing, restoration of voting rights, and job creation for District 70 families. That experience has shown me that we’re strongest when we face these issues together.”
Sheeley is no stranger to politics.
Earlier this year, he left the Charlie Crist fold to work for former Republican U.S. Rep. David Jolly as a senior adviser. Before he took that job, rumors swirled that he had been fired and rehired by Crist, and that he was going to take a position with St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman which would have been a less-strange landing place for a Democratic operative.
“Many have and will continue to question my reason for leaving Congressman Crist,” Sheeley said at the time. “That is an answer that will remain between Charlie Crist and me.”
He went on to say he respected Jolly and that the two shared a common love for the St. Pete community, despite the fact that his old boss had just kicked him out of office in one of the few pick ups for House Democrats in 2016.
HD 70 is a minority access district that covers parts of Hillsborough, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota counties. About 45 percent of the population is black, and 15 percent is Hispanic.
Democrats have an overwhelming advantage in numbers, with party members making up nearly two-thirds of the electorate.
Through the end of June, Newton had raised just $4,800 for his re-election campaign and had about $4,300 of that money on hand. Sheeley’s first report, which will cover the second half of July, will no be available until mid August.