St. Pete City Councilman Wengay Newton files to run for Darryl Rouson’s House seat

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He’s used to often being in the minority on the City Council, so it won’t be a shock to him to be a Democratic House member in Tallahassee.

Today, St. Petersburg City Councilman Wengay Newton declared he’ll be a candidate for House District 70 in 2015, the seat currently occupied by Rep. Darryl Rouson, who won re-election just last month. But it will be his last term in the House due to term limits. The district is one of the most bizarrely gerrymandered in the state, encompassing South Pinellas, as well as parts of Hillsborough, Sarasota and Manatee counties.

Newton is a two-term Councilman who will be term limited out of his seat next November.

Speaking with SaintPetersBlog this afternoon, the 51-year-old St. Pete native said his main passion will be advocating for juvenile justice issues if elected to serve in Tallahassee in 2016. He also said he realizes that the issues that he’s worked on in South St. Pete may be different than the other regions in the district, but he said he looks forward to representing all of the constituents in HD 70.

And he said he’s had plenty of practice in being opposed by the majority during his six years on Council, so he’s prepared for what can be extremely challenging for any Democrat in the state capitol, where they sometimes can seem like endangered species. There are currently only 37 Democrats in the House, and over 40 Republicans.

Along with juvenile justice, Newton has been a passionate critic against red-light camera and for maintaining the iconic structure of the St. Pete Pier.

Newton won in both 2007 and 2011 over the more establishment oriented Gershom Faulkner. He’s the first candidate to come out of the box to announce he’s gunning for Rouson’s seat in ’16. He said that he’s excited that it’s an open seat, since he never would have considered running for it otherwise.

“I’m certain Wengay will anchor a strong slate of candidates in this race,” said South St. Pete activist and magazine publisher Gypsy Gallardo. “It’s time for a fresh dialogue about the future of District 70, and Wengay has never been shy in speaking about key issues.”

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.