Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda

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Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda
Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda official portrait.jpg
Member of the Florida House of Representatives
from the 9th district
In office
November 18, 2008 – November 8, 2016
Preceded by Loranne Ausley
Succeeded by Loranne Ausley
Personal details
Born (1960-07-09) July 9, 1960 (age 57)
Rochester, New York
Political party Republican (since 2017)
Other political
Democratic (until 2016)
Independent (until 2017)
Alma mater New College of Florida
University of South Florida (B.A.)
University of Florida College of Law (J.D.)
Profession Attorney/college professor

Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda (born July 9, 1960) is a former member of the Florida House of Representatives, in which she represented the 9th District, which includes most of Leon County, from 2008 to 2016. In addition to her legislative career, Rehwinkel Vasilinda is an attorney and has been a professor of Legal Studies and Applied Ethics at Tallahassee Community College since 1989.

Personal life[edit]

Rehwinkel Vasilinda was born in Rochester, New York and moved to Florida in 1977 to attend New College, where she studied from 1977 to 1982, before graduating from the University of South Florida in 1982 with a degree in social and behavioral studies. Following this, she attended the University of Florida College of Law, graduating with her Juris Doctor in 1985, and has been a member of the Florida Bar since 1986. As a member of The Florida Bar she has been appointed to the Vision 2016 Commission. She is the mother of two adult daughters and three adult stepsons and is married to Mike Vasilinda.[1]

Political campaigns[edit]

In 2008, Rehwinkel Vasilinda was elected to represent the 9th District, which included parts of Gadsden County, Jefferson County, and Leon County. She won the Democratic primary unopposed, and faced Peter Boulware, the Republican nominee and a former football player for the Florida State Seminoles and the Baltimore Ravens. Despite the district's Democratic lean, Boulware was competitive with Rehwinkel Vasilinda, and managed to significantly outraise her.[2] In the end, she emerged narrowly victorious, winning by 430 votes and with 49% of the vote.

She was challenged in the Democratic primary in 2010 by Rick Minor, the former Chairman of the Leon County Democratic Party. Minor attacked her for voting in favor of offshore oil drilling, a vote that she contended was part of "a much larger energy package," declaring that she "never promoted, supported or defended offshore drilling."[3] She was also attacked for being "a liability," as in 2008, she "barely won in a district that Barack Obama took by 24 points."[4] Despite these spirited attacks, however, Rehwinkel Vasilinda easily defeated Minor, winning 69% of the vote. In the general election, she faced Kirk Headley-Purdue, who did not present much of a challenge to her, and she comfortably won with 59% of the vote.

When districts were redrawn in 2012, Rehwinkel Vasilinda remained in the 9th District, which became solely located in Leon County. She faced Bradley L. Maxwell, the Republican nominee who had previously run against former State Representative Curtis Richardson in 2000, as her general election opponent. The Tallahassee Democrat endorsed her for re-election, citing her efforts to protect government jobs in the district, specifically praising her for fighting "to save the jobs of workers at the Jefferson Correctional Institution, which was slated for closure."[5] In the end, she was re-elected overwhelmingly, winning 62% of the vote.

In 2014, when Rehwinkel Vasilinda ran for her fourth and final term in the legislature, she was opposed by Arnitta Grice-Walker in the Democratic primary. Due to the fact that no other candidates filed, the primary was opened to all voters. During the campaign, Grice-Walker declined to criticize Rehwinkel Vasilinda's service in the legislature, instead running on her plans to reform the state's public employee pension plan and to raise the minimum wage. Rehwinkel Vasilinda campaigned on her support for alternative energy and her opposition to the death penalty, noting, "We're not doing what we should be doing in regard to renewable energy. We are at a point where it shouldn't be alternative, it should be pro forma."[6] In the end, Rehwinkel Vasilinda defeated Grice-Walker in a landslide, winning 82% of the vote.

In September 2016, with less than two months until the end of her final House term, Rehwinkel Vasilinda changed her party registration from Democratic to No Party Affiliation. The change mades her the only Florida legislator not registered with either major party.[7] In February 2017, she officially registered with the Republican Party. [8]

Florida House of Representatives[edit]

For the 2015 Session, Rehwinkel Vasilinda is currently serving on the Judiciary, Education, Energy and Utilities, and Highway and Waterway Safety Committees, and is the Ranking Democratic Member on the Higher Education and Workforce committee. In past years she has served on the following committees: Finance and Tax, Rules and Calendar, Choice and Innovation Education K-20, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy, Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations, Economic Development Policy, Health and Family Services Policy Council, Health Care Regulation Policy, and Select Committee on Government Reorganization.

While serving in the Florida House of Representatives, Rehwinkel Vasilinda convened the Big Bend Anti-Bullying Task Force in 2010 and a statewide Anti-Bullying Roundtable in 2013. She also hosted and convened the Clean Energy Congress in 2010 and 2013. Rehwinkel Vasilinda is an initiator and co-chair with Senator Nancy Detert of the Florida Film, Entertainment and Television Caucus, responsible for the passage of $220,000,000 in television and film credits to bring and keep jobs in the state of Florida. In 2009, she served as a member of the Agriculture and Energy Committee at the National Conference of State Legislatures in Philadelphia, at the request of the Speaker of the House.

Throughout her career in the Florida House, Rehwinkel Vasilinda's primary focus in her legislative endeavors has been in regards to the areas of renewable energy, film and entertainment, tourism, tax reform, ethics, education, economic development and environmental and agricultural issues.


  1. ^ "State Representative Rehwinkel Vasilinda". Florida House of Representatives. State of Florida. Retrieved August 8, 2014. 
  2. ^ Kaczor, Bill (November 7, 2008). "Ex-NFL, Florida St. star Boulware concedes". Florida Times-Union. Retrieved December 6, 2013. 
  3. ^ Derby, Kevin (May 7, 2010). "Energy at Center Stage in Democratic Primary Fight for FL House Seat". Sunshine State News. Retrieved December 6, 2013. 
  4. ^ Derby, Kevin (July 26, 2010). "Republican Candidate Headley-Perdue Posts Strong Financial Figures in 9th House Race". Sunshine State News. Retrieved December 6, 2013. 
  5. ^ "Our Opinion: State House, District 9". Tallahassee Democrat. October 11, 2012. Retrieved December 6, 2013. 
  6. ^ Etters, Karl (August 10, 2014). "Newcomer Grice-Walker challenging Rehwinkel Vasilinda". Tallahassee Democrat. Retrieved December 14, 2014. 
  7. ^ Call, James (September 19, 2016). "Tallahassee Rep. Rehwinkel Vasilinda leaves Democratic Party". Tallahassee Democrat. Retrieved September 19, 2016. 
  8. ^ Schorsch, Peter. "Surprise (or not): Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda joins the Republican Party". St. Petersblog. Retrieved 24 April 2017. 

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