SEN. BOBBY POWELL: Vacating state Senate seat early to run for Palm Beach County Commission. PHOTO COURTESY OF TWITTER

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Florida state Sen. Bobby Powell Jr. is giving up his District 30 seat early to run for a seat on the Palm Beach County Commission.

According to the county elections office, Powell, a Democrat, opened a campaign account on June 5 seeking the District 7 commission seat in the election set for Aug. 20, 2024.

So far the election is a two-person race between Powell, and attorney and fellow Democrat Richard A. Ryles.

County Commissioner Mark Bernard, who currently represents District 7, is term-limited next year and has filed to run for Powell’s Senate seat.

Democratic Rep. David Silvers has canceled plans to run for Senate District 24 to avoid costly Democratic primaries, and instead will seek the Senate District 26 seat in 2026, when Sen. Lori Berman of Boynton Beach is term-limited.

Powell, a Riviera Beach native, former two-term state representative, and three-term state senator, cited extensive support from current and former elected officials and community activists.

“I have worked for years to build consensus and develop relationships locally, statewide and nationally that I will use to continue strengthening Palm Beach County,” Powell said in a statement.

“As a trusted leader, I have consistently advocated for our residents with transparency, accountability and truthfulness,” he said.

“As the only candidate who has dealt with a $100 billion-plus budget, secured more than $100 million in neighborhood improvement projects, and provided best-in-class services to support our residents and community, I am ready to bring my experience to the County Commission.”

Powell cites among his supporters fellow state Sens. Lori Berman, Tracie Davis, Shevrin Jones, Rosalind Osgood, Tina Polsky and Darryl Rouson; state Reps. Jervonte Edmonds and Kelly Skidmore; Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg; Miami-Dade County Commissioner Kionne McGhee; and Palm Beach County School Board members Marcia Andrews, Edwin Ferguson and Erica Whitfield.

Municipal officials who have announced their support for Powell include Riviera Beach Mayor Ronnie Felder; West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James; Lake Park Mayor Roger Michaud; Westlake Mayor John Paul O’Connor; Boynton Beach Mayor Ty Penserga; Palm Springs Vice Mayor Joni Brinkman; Lake Worth Beach Mayor Betty Resch; and West Palm Beach Commissioners Cathleen Ward and Shalonda Warren.

Ryles, a West Palm Beach native, is a managing partner of the Ryles Law Firm, which handles personal injury and wrongful death cases.

Ryles graduated from San Jose State University in California and earned his law degree from Howard University School of Law in 1990.

His law career spans 30 years, and he has been active in the community for years.

Ryles, a former City of West Palm Beach commissioner, had raised $40,725 for his campaign as of June 8, 2023, according to campaign finance reports.

In his campaign video, Ryles said the African American community in Palm Beach County was once a flourishing and vibrant place in which to grow up, with "great" schools, good sports teams, thriving businesses and world-class entertainment.

"But sadly, over time due to neglect, lack of investments and legal redlining, our community began to show signs of decay and crisis," he said. "Homeownership declined in our community, schools closed, struggled or were lost.

"We can’t keep electing the same people doing the same thing and expecting a different result. If we truly want a new day, there must be a new way."

Ryles is president of the Democratic Black Caucus of Palm Beach County, a former president of the F. Malcolm Cunningham Sr. Bar Association, and served as chairman of the West Palm Beach Housing Authority.

Ryles recently suffered a family tragedy. According to his social media post, Ryles’ son, Richard Ryles, Jr., died last month at age 27. No cause of death was mentioned.

County Commission District 7 includes all or part of Briny Breezes, Delray Beach, Gulf Stream, Hypoluxo, Lantana, Mangonia Park, Palm Beach, Palm Beach Shores, Riviera Beach, South Palm Beach and West Palm Beach.