Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is endorsing Eric Lynn in the race for the open Pinellas County Congressional seat being vacated this year by David Jolly.
“I am proud to endorse Eric Lynn for Congress,” Panetta said in a statement. “I know Eric well, and as a valued advisor to me during my time as Secretary of Defense, he proved that he has the resolve, experience, and good judgment that it takes to be a strong and effective leader in Congress. During these challenging times both at home and abroad, Eric has the knowledge and courage to fight to protect the national and economic security of all Americans and their families.”
The endorsement is a nice feather in Lynn’s hat, as he battles a tremendous lack of name recognition in the Democratic primary race for Congressional District 13 against Charlie Crist. A Public Policy Polling survey released last month shows Crist with a huge lead over Lynn, 71%-11%.
Lynn, 37, left his work with the Pentagon a year ago to announce his candidacy for congress. He served six years at the Department of Defense in the Obama administration, where he advised three Secretaries of Defense, including Panetta (the others were Chuck Hagel and Bob Gates).
On the endorsement, Lynn said, “I had the privilege of serving Secretary Leon Panetta at the Pentagon where we worked to fight radicalism, promote peace, and keep our country safe. As the CIA Director during the 2011 assault on Osama Bin Laden, White House Chief of staff and a Democratic member of Congress, Leon Panetta knows what it takes to be a great leader in Washington and I am honored to have his support.”
The 77-year-old Panetta has had an extremely distinguished career in public service. He represented the Monterey area of California in Congress from 1977-1993 before serving as Director of the Office of Management and Budget and as President Bill Clinton’s Chief of Staff. He later became Clinton’s Chief of Staff.
President Obama selected him to lead the CIA from 2009-2011 before becoming Secretary of Defense from 2011 to 2013.
The winner of the Crist-Lynn primary in August 30 will then go to general election in November. Retired Marine Corps Reserve brigadier general Mark Bircher is the only Republican in the race at the moment, while former St. Pete Mayor Rick Baker is said to still be deciding about a possible entry.