CANDIDate Conversations: State and Federal Primary Candidates

Posted On 08/03/2020 by Matt Lettelleir
On August 18th, Pinellas County voters will select their Party’s nominees for the November General Election for County Commission, Sheriff, Tax Collector, State House and US Congress. To vote in the August primary, a voter must be registered with either the Republican or Democratic Party. All voters will be eligible to vote for in the November election.
In preparation for our CANDIDate Conversation: State and Federal Primary Candidates event, we have published the below primer on the candidates with brief backgrounds. We encourage you to visit all of the candidates’ websites for further information and register for our CANDIDate Conversation events to dive deeper into the topics that matter most to you.

State Legislature

The Florida House of Representatives is one-half of our state’s bi-cameral legislature. The House along with the Florida State Senate, meets every year for 60 days to establish a budget and enact laws and regulations that govern our state.
District 67, currently represented by Chris Latvala, encompasses east Clearwater, Largo, and much of central, unincorporated Pinellas County. Dawn Douglas faces Mike Henkel in the Democratic Primary with the winner facing Latvala in November.
  • Dawn Douglas is a teacher and was the Democratic Party’s nominee for this seat in 2018. You can visit her website here:
  • Mike Henkel works in the natural foods industry and ran for this seat in 1992. You an visit his website here:


District 70, currently represented by Wengay Newton, includes parts of Manatee, Sarasota, Hillsborough and southern Pinellas County. Keisha Bell, Michelle Grimsley, Mark Oliver, and Michele Rayner are competing in a rare “Universal Primary Contest” where all voters in District 70 regardless of party affiliation will be able to vote with the winner elected to the State Legislature due to there not being a general election opponent.
  • Keisha Bell is a practicing attorney in St. Pete and attended UCF and FSU College of Law. You can visit her website here:
  • Michelle Grimsley serves as Representative Newton’s Legislative Aide. You can visit here website here:
  • Mark Oliver is a former USF football player and currently runs a Cross Fit gym in St. Pete. You can visit his website here:
  • Michele Rayner is a Civil Rights attorney in St. Pete. She attended FSU and Florida Coastal School of Law. You can visit her website here:


US Congress

Florida Congressional District 13, currently represented by Congressman Charlie Crist, covers south Pinellas County. George Buck, Sheila Griffin, Anna Paulina Luna, Amanda Makki, and Sharon Newby are running for the Republican Party nomination to face Charlie Crist in November.
  • George Buck is a veteran, a retired firefighter, a former professor, and currently consults on emergency/terrorism management. You can visit his website here:
  • Sheila Griffin is a community activist and former attorney. She currently serves as Secretary for the Pinellas County Republican Party. You can visit her website here:
  • Anna Paulina Luna is a Veteran of the US Air Force and is a nationally recognized conservative thought leader. You can visit her website here:
  • Amanda Makki is a former Congressional Staffer and public affairs professional. You can visit her website here:
  • Sharon Newby is a longtime resident of Pinellas County and owns and operates a musical instrument company. You can visit her website here:



NOTE: Candidate information for this post was collected from press reports and/or candidates’ websites.
For further information regarding this post, our Chamber’s Advocacy efforts, or our CANDIDate Conversation events, please contact our Advocacy Manager, Matt Lettelleir, at
Category: Advocacy, Featured