May 17, 2022 - Politics

Rayner and Diamond end bids for Congress, blaming gerrymandering maps

Photos of Michele Rayner and Ben Diamond
Reps. Michele Rayner and Ben Diamond. Photos: Ana Go i-Lessan/USA TODAY Network, Alicia Devine/Tallahassee Democrat /USA TODAY Network

Two Pinellas County congressional candidates have suspended their campaigns, saying Gov. Ron DeSantis' new redistricting maps gerrymandered them out of the race.

Driving the news: Rep. Michele Rayner suspended her campaign for Florida's 13th Congressional District on Monday. She will instead run for re-election to the Florida House for District 62.

  • State Rep. Ben Diamond suspended his campaign for the 13th District seat last week. Instead he'll assist in the Democrat-led legal battle against the state over the congressional maps.

What's happening: Florida's new redistricting maps split St. Petersburg in two, removing the 13th District from South Pinellas and expanding it up to the Pasco County line and a heavily Republican area.

  • A majority of Pinellas Democrats are now incorporated in U.S. Rep Kathy Castor’s 14th Congressional District, which was previously confined to Hillsborough County.
  • Rayner and Diamond's exits leave national security consultant Eric Lynn as the only Democrat who has raised money in the race for Pinellas' open seat to succeed U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, per the Tampa Bay Times.

Flashback: Last week, a Leon County judge struck down a portion of DeSantis' redistricting maps that dismantles the North Florida seat now held by a Black Democrat.

  • The state is appealing the decision, prepared to fight with $1 million in taxpayer dollars set aside to defend the new maps.

Yes, but: The parts of the maps that affect Rayner and Diamond stand.

What they're saying: "We're one city. I'm a St. Pete resident on the east side of town just as much as somebody is a St. Pete resident on the west side of town, and the idea that we're divided now … it's just not right," Diamond told the St. Pete Catalyst.

  • Rayner told Axios she considers the maps to be partisan and racially biased. "(DeSantis) has done everything to try and not have free and fair elections," she said.

Editor’s note: This story was corrected to show Ben Diamond suspended his campaign to focus on a Democrat-led legal battle, not because he was barred by term limits.

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