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College of Social Sciences & Public Policy

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Alum Wins Florida Legislative Seat

Michele Rayner, a civil rights attorney in Pinellas County and an alum of the college, won her primary contest for the District 70 seat in the Florida House, August 18.

With no Republican challenger in the general election on November 3, Rayner automatically takes her place in the Florida Legislature next year.

Rayner (B.S. ’03 International Affairs/Political Science, M.S. ’06 International Affairs) won with about 30 percent of the vote in a crowded race against three opponents.

“Michele Rayner has just shattered another glass ceiling by becoming one of Florida’s first out Black queer women ever elected to any office in our state,” Nadine Smith, Executive Director of Equality Florida, told the Tampa Bay Times. “This is a victory to be celebrated by everyone who values equality and the voices of Black women.”

“I’m proud because this win represents a new day,” said Rayner in a news release after her victory. “We’ve run a campaign focused on putting people over politics and that’s rooted in a commitment to working with and for residents until the change they seek is a reality. This win proves that this community is really tired of business as usual and ready for change, and I’m so grateful and humbled that the voters of District 70 have elected me to represent them in Tallahassee to move us closer to the change we all deserve.”

“It really has been a people powered campaign,” said Rayner, who said she sees her victory as “pushing back on patriarchy.”

Rayner was the fundraising frontrunner throughout the campaign, raising just over $116,900. She also received notable endorsements from Equality Florida, the Florida Education Association, the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida and U.S. Congressmen Charlie Crist.