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Lisa Wheeler-Brown says she’s her own leader despite alleged alliance with Rick Kriseman

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

In an article published by SaintPetersBlog editor Peter Schorsch yesterday, he wrote, “a vote for Will Newton for City Council is a check on Rick Kriseman.” The piece was meant most as a dig on the Kriseman administration calling the mayor’s goals “outsized ambitions.” However, it also served as something of a kick to the shins of Lisa Wheeler-Brown, Newton’s most formidable challenger.

Schorsch called Wheeler-Brown the “most closely aligned with Kriseman, and the most liberal elements of the City Council and civic activists.” He wrote that as if it were a bad thing and to some voters it may very well be. However, there’s probably a pretty decent sector of District 7 – where some of the city’s most liberal voters reside – that aligns with Wheeler-Brown and/or Kriseman.

So, rather than pick apart Schorsch’s analysis/opinion of why voters should cast a ballot for Newton and not Wheeler-Brown, I just spoke to her.

“I think he does what he feels best is for the city,” Wheeler-Brown said of her alleged alliance with Kriseman. “Not everyone may agree with the way he’s doing things.”

One of the main differences between Wheeler-Brown and Newton are their views on whether Kriseman’s agreement with the Rays to allow them to look for stadium sites outside of St. Pete should be voted up or down. Wheeler-Brown has said she will vote in favor while Newton said he thinks the agreement still has a little way to go – though he did say he believes it will ultimately pass.

The issue thrown before voters by Schorsch became a referendum on the mayor rather than an evaluation of a candidate’s individual qualities. Both Newton and Wheeler-Brown have plenty to offer on council.

Newton has worked long and hard on collective bargaining for the local firefighters’ union, which gives him a unique perspective on not just lobbying for local projects in Tallahassee, but also at the bargaining table locally.

Wheeler-Brown has a rich history working toward improving public safety in District 7, where communities need that push the most.

“Things are being said like, the mayor would be able to manipulate me,” Wheeler-Brown said. “I’m my own person. I’m my own leader. Just because I may decide or agree with something that the mayor or some other council member did doesn’t mean I’m being [told what to do.]”

In the meantime, Wheeler-Brown said she feels good about where her campaign is. The most recent campaign finance reports showed a surge in fundraising for Newton, but a vast drop for Wheeler-Brown. She said she’s been hitting the phones hard talking to voters and asking for contributions and expects the next round of reports to tell a different story.

Despite weeks of rain, Wheeler-Brown said she and campaign volunteers have been regularly out knocking on doors to communicate her message to voters.

“My campaign really isn’t about being against something,” she said. “My campaign is about running for things — sustainable jobs — because this is what people in my community tell me they need.”

Both candidates face three others during the August 25 primary — Aaron Sharpe, Sheila Scott-Griffin and Lewis Stephens. The top two finishers in that race will move on to the November general election, where the ballot will be open to voters citywide.

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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