Pinellas County School Board member Rene Flowers bested two fellow political veterans on Tuesday in the Democratic primary for the open Pinellas County Commission District 7 seat.
Flowers received more than half the 31,239 votes cast, defeating state Rep. Wengay Newton, who received about 33 percent, and the Rev. Frank Peterman Jr., who brought in about 15 percent, according to unofficial results.
Flowers will face the no party affiliated Maria Scruggs and write-in candidate Anthony Hart in the general election to represent the district that covers south St. Petersburg, Gulfport, South Pasadena and Lealman. The Nov. 3 winner will succeed longtime District 7 commissioner Ken Welch, who is stepping down after 20 years to run for St. Petersburg mayor.
Flowers, 55, centered her campaign on affordable and workforce housing and expanding small business opportunities for women and minorities. She won endorsements from a range of Democratic leaders and organizations like St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long, The Suncoast Group of the Sierra Club and Equality Florida.
Flowers, who has served on the School Board since 2012, has made a name for herself as an active community steward, with stints on many boards from the YMCA of Greater Tampa Bay to the National Council of Negro Women.She also served on the St. Petersburg City Council from 1999 to 2008. As president of the Florida League of Cities in 2006, Flowers launched a task force to provide municipalities with information and education on affordable housing.
Flowers raised $66,067, compared to Newton’s $80,048 and Peterman’s $18,268, according to the campaign treasurer reports. Welch did not endorse a favorite in the primary because of his relationship with all of the candidates.
Newton, a professional photographer and former St. Petersburg City Council member, did not seek a third term in state House District 70 in order to run for the county commission.
After three years on the St. Petersburg City Council in the 1990s, Peterman went on to serve in the Florida House from 2000 to 2008 and became known as an advocate for criminal sentencing diversion and youth empowerment, especially for African American boys. He also served two years as secretary of the Department of Juvenile Justice.