Wake up! It’s Election Day in St. Pete’s District 7. Voters in 15 precincts will head to the polls throughout the day until 7 this evening to determine which two of five candidates will advance to the citywide Primary Election on November 3.
Candidates are Winthrop “Will” Newton, Lisa Wheeler-Brown, Sheila Scott-Griffin, Aaron Sharpe and Lewis Stephens.
Newton is the brother of incumbent Wengay Newton. Though the two share some uncanny physical characteristics, they are indeed quite different. Will Newton, the younger of the two brothers, carries a much calmer demeanor than his oft-times wily brother. Where Wengay often sounds a loud alarm, Will takes a more conciliatory approach through bargaining.
Will Newton is the district vice president for the the Florida Firefighters and was an EMT and firefighter for 23 years earning Florida Firefighter of the year later in his career.
Lisa Wheeler-Brown is a longtime community activist who also was president of the Council of Neighborhood Associations. She began working in the community to improve relationships with police in 2008 after her son was murdered. Her tireless work in breaking down the no-snitch code of silence brought her son’s killer to justice. She is running for council on a platform that includes bringing safer streets to troubled District 7 neighborhoods including Midtown and Child’s Park.
Sheila Scott-Griffin is a former attorney and current consultant. She has an extensive resume ranging from community service on various agencies to working in human resource. There’s not much you won’t find on Scott-Griffin’s résumé. However, her credibility as a candidate has been called into question by two negative mailers sent by Democratic groups blasting the only Republican in the race for two law license suspensions during her career as a lawyer. One of those suspensions was the result of inaction by Scott-Griffin to follow through on an appeal process for a client. That client was charged for those services anyway. Scott-Griffin said she’s sorry for the mistake and said it was an oversight due to dissolving her law practice.
Aaron Sharpe is a former bank executive who rose to management after starting work as a teller. He is running on a campaign platform of “opportunities for all” and argues that all components of opportunities — from jobs and education to affordable housing — are inextricably linked. Sharpe touts his status as an independent candidate as a strong point, telling voters he is beholden to no one. Despite the race being bipartisan, Sharpe and Scott-Griffin could be at a disadvantage in a mostly Democratic district because neither are Democrats.
Lewis Stephens is a behavioral specialist at Campbell Park Elementary, one of the five “failure factories” identified in a scathing investigative report by the Tampa Bay Times. That experience gives Stephens the unique ability to understand and perhaps more appropriately address education and youth services in a district where most of the failing schools identified are located. Stephens has run with his priorities rooted in youth development and education.
Here’s where you can vote:
St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church
3747 34th St. S.
Christ Gospel Church
2512 22nd Ave. S.
New Hope Baptist Church
2120 19th St. S.
Thomas “Jet” Jackson Recreation Center
1000 28th St. S.
Bethel Metropolitan Baptist Church
3455 26th Ave. S.
Prayer Tower Church of God in Christ
1137 37th St. S.
Unity of St. Petersburg
6168 First Ave. N.
Trinity United Church of Christ
1150 49th St. N.
Child’s Park Recreation and Fitness Center
4301 13th Ave. S.
St. Luke’s United Methodist Church
4444 Fifth Ave. N.
Galilee Missionary Baptist Church
505 35th St. S.
Fifth Avenue Church of Christ
4200 Fifth Ave. S.
Polls close promptly at 7 p.m. To date, 1,993 voters have already cast a ballot by mail.