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Darden Rice has a list of wants for congressional candidates Eric Lynn and Charlie Crist

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

When Pinellas voters elect a new person to represent them in Congress, a lot could change in St. Pete. Congressional District 13 is currently represented by Republican David Jolly. That district includes most, but not all, of St. Pete.

After the 2016 election to replace Jolly, who is running for U.S. Senate, all of St. Pete will be included. That’s because a court ruled that the current districts violate Florida’s Fair Districts law by leaving out the primarily Democratic South St. Pete and parts of downtown. Instead, those sections were lopped into U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor’s already Democrat-saturated district.

The result was a gerrymandered district that favored Republicans. Under the newly drawn map, CD 13 now leans Democrat.

Amid an announcement from former Gov. and former Republican Charlie Crist that he’d be running for the seat against fellow Democrat Eric Lynn, St. Pete City Council member Darden Rice is weighing in on the priorities she hopes candidates focus on.

Rice included support for federal transportation funds in her list of wants from a new Congress member. Rice has long been an avid supporter of transit. She backed the failed Greenlight Pinellas referendum that would have paid for light rail connecting St. Pete to Clearwater. And Rice serves on the PSTA board — a task that she did as a civilian appointee as well.

She’s worked side-by-side with Castor on federal initiatives to boost transportation in St. Pete and Pinellas. But she hasn’t had the same relationship with Jolly. With new blood guaranteed, it’s not surprising Rice would hope to build on that effort.

Rice is also calling on candidates to support a Cuban consulate in St. Pete. That’s not something Jolly would be likely to support.

She also asks that the eventual Congress member offer strategic support for the city’s economic development plans and continue Castor’s outspoken support to protect Florida’s coasts.

Rice did not weigh in on support for either candidate now in the race. No Republican has formally announced a bid, but former Mayor Rick Baker is rumored to be considering running.

Crist announced his candidacy yesterday in a long-anticipated speech. He jumps into the race at a bit of a disadvantage. Lynn has already raised $550,000.

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 Patch.com 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 janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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