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Nonprofit founder Audrey Henson announces run for Congress

Henson, who grew up in a low-income household in St. Petersburg, said her life experience helped guide her service
Audrey Henson
Audrey Henson [ Provided ]
Published Sep. 8
Updated Sep. 8

ST. PETERSBURG — Audrey Henson, a longtime St. Petersburg resident and the founder of a nonprofit that helps students from disadvantaged backgrounds secure Congressional internships, announced her campaign for Florida’s 13th Congressional District Wednesday morning.

Henson, 31, joins a Republican primary with two other candidates, Anna Paulina Luna and Amanda Makki.

Growing up poor in St. Petersburg, Henson said she concluded that big government doesn’t help move people out of poverty, but instead keeps them there, according to a news release from her campaign.

“Socialism is the most serious pandemic facing America and unless we elect a new generation of conservative leaders to stand up and defeat it, we will face its devastating consequences for years to come,” Henson said in a statement.

College to Congress, the nonprofit Henson founded when she was 26, aimed to even the playing field by making congressional internships — often unpaid — accessible for students from low-income backgrounds.

As a University of South Florida student, she said she noticed the disparity between someone from a working-class home like hers and those who had connections.

The group provides financial support for housing, transportation, meals and other costs of living in Washington, D.C., according to the website. Henson herself was an intern for U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, according to her campaign.

In 2020, Henson was honored by Forbes magazine as a 30-under-30 honoree for law and policy.

“My story of ending the cycle of poverty isn’t just a story about the power of America — it’s a story about the power of conservative ideas and values,” Henson said in the release.

Florida’s 13th congressional district covers the southern half of Pinellas County, and is a major part of Republicans’ plans to flip the U.S. House back to GOP control. The exact lines of the district may change as Florida redraws its boundaries to account for an additional congressional seat.

Luna, the first Republican candidate to announce, won the primary in 2020 but lost in the general election to Rep. Charlie Crist, who is vacating the seat to run for governor. Makki, a Republican strategist, also ran in 2020.

On the Democrats side, Reps. Ben Diamond and Michele Rayner have announced, along with national security advisor Eric Lynn. Libertarian Frank Craft, a business owner, is also running.