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Tampa Tribune endorses Lisa Wheeler-Brown for St. Pete City Council

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The Tampa Tribune has endorsed Lisa Wheeler-Brown for St. Pete City Council District 7. The Trib’s endorsement stakes its decision on just one key issue facing St. Pete – the Tampa Bay Rays.

The paper looks at the two most competitive candidates who are also the two most widely considered viable. That includes Will Newton. Each are on opposite sides of the Rays debate.

Wheeler-Brown supports Mayor Rick Kriseman’s Memorandum of Understanding with the Major League Baseball team to allow the team to look outside the city in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. Newton has said he wants more in the deal and hinted that may be a provision that includes the Tropicana Field site in the newly created Southside Community Redevelopment Area.

The Trib immediately points out in its endorsement that “all five candidates running … are intensely focused on finding solutions to the economic troubles afflicting the district.” So, it seems almost petty to stake an endorsement on just one issue.

However, the Rays debate is huge and whoever wins the seat could be a game changer. The District 7 incumbent, Wengay Newton, has been a staunch “no” vote on the Rays deal. The vote is deadlocked 4-4 on council so if whoever replaces Wengay Newton votes yes, the deal would likely move forward.

Though Newton has said “the deal isn’t there yet,” he also noted that he firmly believes a deal will be reached and is committed to seeing that through. It appears that is not enough reassurance for the Trib’s editorial board.

Wheeler-Brown is a prominent community activist who got her start in the political sphere after her son was murdered. Following his death she worked tirelessly to bring down the community’s “no-snitch” code of silence to help bring her son’s killer to justice. She has also served as president of the Council of Neighborhood Associations.

Newton is a retired fire fighter and EMT of 23 years and currently serves as the district vice president for the Florida Professional Firefighters.

The two are also running against Aaron Sharpe, Sheila Scott Griffin and Lewis Stephens. The primary election is August 25.

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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