Pinellas Democratic Party chair thinks it’s premature to speculate about CD 13 race


(Updated with quote from Eric Lynn spokesman Bill Burton below).

Even before a poll was released earlier this week that showed he would be an overwhelming underdog to former governor Charlie Crist in a Democratic primary election in Florida’s 13th Congressional District, Eric Lynn made it clear that he was committing to run for the seat next year.

And that’s the way it should be, says Susan McGrath, chair of the Pinellas Democratic Executive Committee.

“I don’t know why he would not stay in. He’s had a very strong start,” she told Florida Politics on Thursday, referring to the fact that the first time candidate has raised an impressive $400,000 over the past three months since he declared his candidacy in the district. At the time of his announcement, Lynn was the only Democrat to show any interest in opposing GOP incumbent David Jolly.

But that was before the Florida Supreme Court rocked Pinellas County’s political makeup, ruling earlier this month that the Florida Legislature had unconstitutionally drawn up eight congressional districts in 2012, including CD 13, in violation of the Fair Districts amendment passed by voters in 2010.

“There’s an assumption that things will be drawn a certain way and maybe that will happen, but there’s been a lot of assumptions about what’s going to happen,” McGrath said, after attending a press conference in downtown St. Petersburg on Thursday with activists calling for an increase in the minimum wage in Florida to $15. “Eric’s had a very strong start,  but I wouldn’t encourage anybody to get out of any race at this point. It just doesn’t’ make any sense.”

After Crist tweeted earlier this week that if the redrawn district were to encompass his condominium in downtown St. Petersburg, St. Pete Polls conducted a survey of what they said could be an accurate map of a redrawn CD 13, including parts of St. Pete that are currently part of Kathy Castor’s District 14 seat.

The results? Crist mauls Lynn, 73 percent to 10 percent.

But McGrath says it’s way too early for any polls to predict anything at this point. “The campaign hasn’t even begun yet,” she says. “Nobody’s had any voter contact.”

Or seen what the actual contours of the district will actually be. That’s certainly why none of the potential Democrats mentioned as having interest in the seat – Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch, St. Pete City Council member Darden Rice, or former Tampa City Council member Mary Mulhern have laid low since the Supreme Court ruling (Mulhern did not return a call this week for comment).

Than again, the fact that Crist looks dominant in the race may quell them from entertaining the thought of getting into the contest. It certainly has done that for Dwight Dudley, state representative of House District 68 in South Pinellas.

“While I’ve been interested, I’ve also acknowledged that if Charlie were to come into the race, he would be the guy to beat, and so I certainly am cognizant of that,” Dudley said on Thursday.  Speaking of Crist, he commented, “I think he’s a good man, I think he’s a moral and decent person. That’s not to distract anything from Eric Lynn, either, I think he’s also a good person. Obviously the numbers are pretty overwhelming in favor of Charlie.”

Earlier this week, Florida Politics asked Congresswoman Castor her thoughts about the proposed redistricting.

“Well first of all, I’m strongly in favor of Fair Districts, but I’m going to miss St Petersburg,” she said from Washington on Monday. “I love the folks in Midtown and South St Pete, and you have to admit, downtown St Pete is one of the hippest places around. I’m saddened by it, but I’m looking forward to having a great partner in the Congress to help stand up for working people, and economic opportunity, and equal rights and I’m really looking forward to it.

Castor knows Lynn, who for the past six years (2008-2014) worked closely with three Defense secretaries who worked under President Obama – Robert Gates, Leon Panetta, and Chuck Hagel.

“He’s a bright young guy,” Castor said of Lynn. “He’s a great young guy, and I think he’s got a bright future, no matter what happens.”

Lynn has kept a low-profile this week. Other than repeating to the Tampa Bay Times that he was staying in the race, his only public remarks have been a public statement criticizing GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump for his remarks about John McCain’s military service.

But his spokesman, Bill Burton, provided this comment to Florida Politics on Friday.

“It’s not surprising that someone who has run for multiple offices from multiple parties has higher name recognition than someone who has been serving at the Pentagon advising three Secretaries of Defense. But this race isn’t about whose name is known by the most people – it’s about who will fight for the people of Pinellas, and no one will work harder than Eric Lynn.”

Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was 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 and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at [email protected]


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