Congressional candidate Eric Lynn is responding to former Gov. Charlie Crist‘s long-anticipated announcement that he’ll challenge Lynn in a primary for Congressional District 13 by playing on reminders that Crist wasn’t always a Democrat.
“Since day one, I’ve been in this race to sere as a voice for the people of Pinellas County. This is my hometown. I’m a St. Petersburg native, a life-long Democrat, and I know what issues are important to the people of this district: the economy, jobs, national security, veterans, health care and women’s rights, just to name a few,” Lynn wrote in a statement.
Crist announced Monday morning he’s officially running in the newly formed congressional district to succeed incumbent David Jolly. Jolly is leaving office to run for the U.S. Senate seat held by presidential candidate Marco Rubio.
Lynn emerged early in the race after a court ordered the congressional district lines redrawn. That move shifted the district from a Republican majority to a Democratic stronghold by including South St. Pete and parts of downtown, where most voters lean left.
Lynn is likely to be seen as the further-left candidate. Crist lost against Gov. Rick Scott in the 2014 gubernatorial election in part because he was painted as an opportunist after switching from a Republican to an independent to run for U.S. Senate. He lost that race to Rubio. He then swapped to Democrat to run against Scott.
The wishy-washy political stances could leave a bad taste in some Democrats’ mouths who see Crist as a career politician who will sway whatever way he needs to get elected.
“Voters need a fresh face, someone with new smart policy ideas who is eager to make a change and fight for them in Washington,” Lynn wrote. “I’m confident I will be just that for my fellow Floridians, and I’m looking forward to a spirited primary on important Democratic issues to prove it to them.”
Crist responded earlier in the day to arguments that he was a political opportunist by arguing his views have never changed. He told reporters he’s always supported key issues like women’s rights and education.
Meanwhile, Lynn has a huge campaigning head start. He’s already raised more than $550,000 and has gained support from presidents of Democratic groups like the Pinellas Democratic Club, Gulfport Dems Club, Women’s Dems Club of Upper Pinellas and the Largo/Mid Pinellas Democratic Club.
The Greater Pinellas Point neighborhood civic association president also joins that list. That neighborhood was previously in U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor’s district that spanned both Tampa and South St. Pete.
In a separate announcement last week, Lynn’s campaign reported $150,000 of his current fundraising total was raised during the latest report period.
During his appearances today in Pinellas County, Crist dismissed the head start his opponent has, saying he intends to focus on the issues to let voters decide who the right candidate is.
A Republican, so far, has not entered the race. Former St. Pete Mayor Rick Baker has been named as a possible GOP contender.