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St. Petersburg City Council candidate Wendy Wesley exits race

Wesley says she’s leaving the District 4 council race to focus on her business, which has suffered during the pandemic.
Wendy Wesley, a registered dietician and small business owner, announced Friday that she is dropping out of the race for the St. Petersburg City Council District 4 seat.
Wendy Wesley, a registered dietician and small business owner, announced Friday that she is dropping out of the race for the St. Petersburg City Council District 4 seat. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]
Published Jan. 30
Updated Jan. 31

ST. PETERSBURG — Wendy Wesley says she’s dropping out of her City Council race because of the toll the coronavirus pandemic has taken on her business.

A 49-year-old St. Petersburg native and dietician who runs a nutrition counseling business, Wesley was running for the District 4 council seat. It’s the seat being vacated by Darden Rice, who is term limited and running for mayor. Wesley made the announcement Friday, though she’s still listed as a candidate with the city clerk.

“It is with a heavy heart that I will withdraw my candidacy,” she wrote on Facebook that day. “I am concerned for the time required to properly fundraise and campaign while earning a living for myself and my son. Changes due to COVID-19 have hampered my business.”

Related: St. Petersburg’s election season begins. So who’s running?

Wesley has raised nearly $5,000 since entering the race in August, according to her most recent campaign finance report. In her statement, she promised to refund contributions to her donors, or to redirect their contributions to charity.

Her departure from the race means Clifford Hobbs III, a 40-year-old native Iowan, former chef in Atlanta and currently a bartender at the Birch & Vine restaurant on Beach Drive NE, does not currently face an opponent.

Wesley, who is a food policy activist, says she’ll continue to stay engaged on city issues, specifically “the redevelopment of Tangerine Plaza, food policy, urban agriculture and health equity.”

“My passion has always been nutrition insecurity, chronic disease management and health equity and I will not cease that work. I will continue to speak, write and advocate to our city, county and state to provide nutrient-dense foods and equal health opportunities to ALL residents of St. Petersburg, Pinellas and Florida,” she wrote.

The mayor and the four even-numbered council districts are up for election this year.

Rice faces former Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch, former St. Petersburg City Council member and state Rep. Wengay Newton, University of South Florida St. Petersburg Campus student Michael Ingram, and St. Petersburg real estate agent Vince Nowicki in the mayor’s race.

Council member Brandi Gabbard, who has not yet filed for reelection but said she is running, so far does not face an opponent in District 2. Incumbent Gina Driscoll is currently running unopposed in District 6. Community activist and school teacher Richmond Floyd is also running unopposed in District 8.

The mayor and council members serve four-year terms for a maximum of two terms. The primary election is Aug. 24. In the mayor’s race, a candidate who receives more than 51 percent of the vote can win outright and avoid a run-off in the Nov. 2 general election.

In city council races, candidates first run within their districts. The top two candidates in each primary then advance to a city-wide general election.