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.