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Rene Flowers defeats Maria Scruggs in Pinellas County Commission District 7 race

The two community activists ran to succeed longtime commissioner Ken Welch, who is stepping down to run for St. Petersburg mayor.
Pinellas County School Board member Rene Flowers, left, and former St. Petersburg NAACP president Maria Scruggs, right.
Pinellas County School Board member Rene Flowers, left, and former St. Petersburg NAACP president Maria Scruggs, right. [ Flowers/Scruggs ]
Published Nov. 4, 2020|Updated Nov. 4, 2020

School Board member Rene Flowers won the Pinellas County Commission District 7 seat on Tuesday over community activist Maria Scruggs.

Flowers, a Democrat, won with about 67 percent of the vote, according to Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Office unofficial results.

The two well-known figures ran to succeed District 7 County Commissioner Ken Welch, who is stepping down after two decades in the seat to run for St. Petersburg mayor next year.

“I’m feeling elated, I can relax and take a deep breath, but I am just really ready to get to work,” Flowers said in a phone interview from her victory party at Toriano’s in St. Petersburg. “I’m thankful and grateful for Commissioner Welch’s leadership and his mentorship and working with me and updating me on things to come.”

Welch endorsed Flowers as his successor for the “effective, focused and collaborative leadership" she would bring to the district that covers Lealman, Kenneth City, Gulfport and southern St. Petersburg. And Flowers earned the support of a slew of local officials from St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman to the Suncoast Police Benevolent Association.

Flowers, a development manager with Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Community Services, centered her campaign around expanding affordable housing, boosting small, minority- and women-owned businesses, and preparing for the impacts of climate change.

District 7 is the most diverse in the county, with 25 percent African American and 6 percent Hispanic residents. Two of the five areas with the highest concentrations of poverty in Pinellas, Lealman and southern St. Petersburg, are within the district.

During her campaign, Flowers, 56, touted her background for how she could bring innovation to address the district’s biggest needs. She was first elected to the St. Petersburg City Council in 1999, where she served two terms. She lost a race for County Commission in 2008 and was elected to the School Board in 2012.

Scruggs, 63, the former president of the St. Petersburg NAACP, centered her campaign around strengthening the Tampa Bay Works program connecting the unemployed to jobs and livable wages; hosting listening tours to determine residents' greatest needs related to COVID-19 impacts; and increasing funding for affordable housing and rental assistance through the 1-cent sales tax.

Scruggs, an administrative supervisor at Orange County Corrections, has worked in public housing, community health care and law enforcement.

Flowers raised $93,920 for her campaign, while Scruggs brought in $18,866, according to financial reports.


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