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Would-be CD 13 Dem candidates totally fine with Charlie Crist’s candidacy

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Although St. Petersburg attorney Jessica Ehrlich was soundly defeated by Bill Young in his last re-election for Congress in 2012, her margin of defeat was the second closest of any losing Democrat in 40 years, and she was running hard in the fall of 2013 to face Young again in 2014.

However, after Young’s death in the fall of 2013, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ignored Ehrlich’s efforts and recruited former CFO Alex Sink to run as the Democratic nominee. Sink ended up losing to David Jolly in the special election to succeed Young in March of 2014.

Since then, Ehrlich has moved on quite successfully. She has her own law practice in St. Pete and is a regular commentator for the Fox News Channel. On Tuesday, she literally stood behind another major Democrat now running in the CD 13 seat, Charlie Crist, and said she has no regrets.

“At this point, I’m just happy that we’ll be able to have someone who’s a solid Democrat to go up there and make a difference,” she says.

Young served in Washington for over 43 years, a duration of time that Ehrlich believes the Tea Party-led GOP looks upon unfavorably these days.

“They don’t want to have people there for 40 years, doing that,” she said. “I think Charlie knows Pinellas County and this area so well, he knows what the needs are for the people here, he’s very in touch with what needs to happen, what we can do and what we can get at the federal level, so I think he’s an ideal person to be able to help the area.”

There have been some concerns that Crist could bolt his congressional seat in just three years and run again for the open seat for governor. Such a result could hurt the district when it comes to seniority.

“I’m not sure that longevity in Congress means anything anymore,” said Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long. “I think Congressman Jolly for as long as he was there became quite effective for our community,  and I found him to be extremely open and available to me and talk about issues.”

Long’s BOCC colleague, Ken Welch, agreed that he’s not concerned about Crist’s future plans.

“I think what’s important is that St. Petersburg is united with the rest of Pinellas County,” he said. “It’s been a longtime coming, and I think Charlie’s the perfect representative for the time. The politics of Pinellas County has always been very forward thinking, and the politics of the shutdown Congress has not played in Pinellas County, and especially in CD13.”

Both Welch and Long have often been mentioned as potential Democratic nominees for the CD 13 seat, but both said today they’re content in running for re-election to their county commission seats.

Then there is Eric Lynn, who actually is running for the Democratic nomination for CD 13, and now has a challenger in Crist.

“Since day one, I’ve been in this race to serve as a voice for the people of Pinellas County,” Lynn said today in a statement.  “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. Voters need a fresh face, someone with new smart policy ideas who is eager to make a change and fight for them in Washington. 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.”

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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