In a surprising turn of events, Brother John Muhammad, a representative on St. Petersburg City Council District 7, announced he will not seek election to the seat he was appointed to in late 2022. The decision, as he declared in a Facebook post and on his website, did not come lightly.
John Muhammad’s Tenure and Controversies
Following the resignation of Lisa Wheeler-Bowman amid questions about her residency, Muhammad was appointed to City Council in October 2022. He was selected in a close 4-3 vote, backed by Mayor Ken Welch and County Commissioner Rene Flowers. However, his appointment stirred controversy due to his support for Louis Farrakhan, a figure labeled as an anti-Semite by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Despite the backlash, Muhammad maintains that his decision to step down is not related to the controversy. Rather, he believes his skills can be more impactful outside the realm of elected office. In his resignation letter, he stated, “This decision is not a reflection of a lack of commitment or dedication… I remain steadfast in my commitment to being an asset and a resource for whomever the voters choose as the District 7 representative.”
Muhammad’s Commitment to Community Advocacy
Muhammad has a long history of community-based advocacy. He has held leading roles with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in the Tampa Bay area. He also played a crucial role in passing St. Pete’s wage theft ordinance, a “hard to hire” city policy and the city’s $15 minimum wage for employees. Furthermore, he works with Florida Rising, a group dedicated to building political power among marginalized communities.
Despite initially intending to seek election, Muhammad now believes that stepping back from the race will allow him to focus his attention on his community work. He plans on developing a community-led agenda that best serves the interest of the constituents.
Who’s Next to Serve District 7?
With Muhammad stepping down, two candidates have emerged vying for the seat. These are North Carolina State football star Donald Bowens Jr. and Wengay Newton. Newton previously served on St. Pete City Council in District 7 for two terms from 2008 until 2012. His candidacy is possible due to a provision that resets term limits after a representative has been out of office for at least two terms.
This will be the first city election held on an even-numbered year, marking a significant change in the city’s electoral history. Previously, City Council and mayoral contests were held in off-years.
In conclusion, while Muhammad’s decision not to seek election may have come as a surprise, he remains committed to serving his community. As the race for the District 7 seat heats up, it will be interesting to see who the voters choose to continue the work Muhammad started. Regardless of the outcome, one thing is certain – the commitment to community advocacy and progressive policies will remain a key focus in the district.