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Bill Dudley endorsement means Will Newton has support from half of current St. Pete City Council

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

St. Pete City Council member Bill Dudley has endorsed Will Newton for the District 7 seat up for grabs.

“I have known Will Newton for over 20 years as a teacher and a friend. He is a person of integrity, who possesses a strong work ethic, and tremendous leadership skill,” Dudley said. “He has the ability to understand complex issues and to thoughtfully find solutions without compromising his integrity.  He is ready to provide the kind of leadership that this city needs and deserves. I strongly endorse and support his candidacy for City Council.”

With the nod from Dudley, who is being replaced by City Council member-elect Ed Montanari, Newton now has endorsements from half of the current City Council. The other three to endorse Newton include Steve Kornell, Amy Foster and Newton’s brother, Wengay Newton.

“I am tremendously grateful for the support of Councilmember Dudley,” Newton said. “His entire career has been committed to public service, and I have great admiration for his tireless work in our community.”

Dudley is also the first Republican elected official to make an endorsement for the general election pitting Newton against popular community activist Lisa Wheeler-Brown. He’s also been endorsed by his former opponent, Sheila Scott-Griffin.

Scott-Griffin was the only Republican running in the five-way District 7 primary. The back-to-back GOP endorsements, even though City Council races are nonpartisan, could spell a domino effect of endorsements from other local conservatives.

That could pose a threat to Wheeler-Brown, who enjoyed a comfortable lead over Newton in the primary election. Both candidates are registered Democrats. District 7 is overwhelmingly blue, but the general election will be held citywide. That means more conservative voters will be included at the polls.

Wheeler-Brown has endorsements from City Council members Darden Rice and Karl Nurse. Jim Kennedy and Charlie Gerdes have not made endorsements. Gerdes had backed Aaron Sharpe in the primary. Neither Gerdes nor Sharpe have made endorsements since the election last month.

Newton is a retired firefighter and EMT with 23 years of service under his belt. He now works with the local chapter of the state firefighters union. Wheeler-Brown is a former president of the Council of Neighborhood Associations. Both candidates served on the mayor’s transition task force.

The general election is November 3. The deadline to register to vote in this election is October 5.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email

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