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William March: Arthenia Joyner hints that she will challenge Darryl Rouson

Joyner, a local civil rights-era icon with a long history in politics, held Rouson’s state Senate seat from 2006-2016.
Former state Sen. Arthenia Joyner hinted this week that she’s edging toward a primary challenge to Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg. [Times]
Published Aug. 28

Former state Sen. Arthenia Joyner hinted this week that she’s edging toward a primary challenge to Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, continuing a St. Pete-v.-Tampa battle over the bay-crossing district from 2016.

“I’m seriously considering it — more seriously than before,” Joyner said this week.

Possibly expecting a challenge, Rouson has been building up a campaign war chest. He had about $150,000 in his campaign account as of July 31 and has raised about $230,000 so far this year in his political committee, Floridians for Common Sense.

In the heavily minority district, the Democratic primary is expected to decide the race.

Joyner said Rouson’s fundraising “wouldn’t disturb me,” and she’s in no hurry to make up her mind.

“I can raise money too, and money doesn’t always win elections,” she said. “I don’t think (a campaign) will take a whole year — it’s not like I’m an unknown person.”

Hillsborough has nearly three quarters of the district’s registered Democrats, but the Pinellas voters are more likely to turn out — in the 2016 primary, they cast 40 percent of the votes.

That year, Democratic political leaders in St. Pete almost unanimously endorsed Rouson, who won overwhelmingly in Pinellas. Meanwhile, two Tampa candidates, Betty Reed and Ed Narain, split the Hillsborough vote, giving Rouson a razor-thin victory overall.

Joyner, a local civil rights-era icon with a long history in politics, would be a tough competitor. She held the seat from 2006-2016, though with a somewhat different configuration because of redistricting.

“People are saying we need a real Democrat in that seat,” she said. Some Tampa Democrats have criticized Rouson for voting with Republicans on issues including vouchers and abortion.

Concerning the possible challenge, Rouson said, “Anybody can run, and someone who feels the calling to serve should run. I’m not afraid of competition.”

Asked about his fundraising, he said, “I was always told that a good legislator does two things — appreciates good policy, and raises funds because it’s a necessary evil that must be done to get your message out.”

Boyd files to run for Galvano’s seat

Former state Rep. Jim Boyd, a Bradenton Republican, has filed as expected for the District 21 state Senate seat being vacated by term-limited Sen. Bill Galvano, and he’s starting his race with endorsements that make it clear he’s the choice of GOP leadership.

Boyd is backed by Galvano, the current Senate president; Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, Republican designee as next in line for the presidency; Sens. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, and Travis Hutson, R-Palm Coast, the leading contenders to follow Simpson; and Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, who’s also state GOP chairman.

The district includes all of Manatee County, but a third of its voters are in southeastern Hillsborough, up to and including eastern Brandon.

Boyd, 62, served from 2010-2018 in the House representing a district that initially included a sliver of Hillsborough, but hasn’t run in the Brandon area, which is gradually becoming more Democratic. The district as a whole leans Republican.

In an interview, he emphasized bipartisanship, mentioning working with Sen. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, when she was in the House.

“My past performance has been very bipartisan on the issues that we can work together on,” he said.

On water quality, a major issue in the district, Boyd said he thinks Gov. Ron DeSantis “is very serious” and “demonstrating strong leadership.”

Public school teacher Amanda Victoria Linton of Brandon, a first-time candidate motivated in part by the needs of public education and by opposition to Donald Trump, is the only Democrat filed in the race so far.

Mayors to speak for ERA

Mayors Jane Castor of Tampa and Rick Kriseman of St. Petersburg will both attend a meeting of the Athena Society in Tampa Sept. 5 to speak in favor of the Equal Rights Amendment for gender equity.

It’s no surprise they back the ERA — Kriseman was a long-time supporter as a legislator, and Castor, an Athena Society member, pioneered as Tampa police chief.

But the event indicates how the organization of Tampa Democratic women, political and civic leaders, has become a center of support for the measure.

Partly at the group’s urging, both the St. Petersburg and Tampa city councils have passed resolutions urging the Legislature to ratify the amendment, and the board of commissioners is about to consider one. State Rep. Fentrice Driskell, a member, plans to sponsor ratification legislation this year.

Contact William March at


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