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Amanda Makki is one of the GOP candidates backing term limits. Image via Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans

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Amanda Makki grabs another high-profile endorsement in her quest to unseat Charlie Crist

U.S. Rep. John Rutherford is throwing his weight behind Makki.

U.S. Rep. John Rutherford is endorsing lawyer and former congressional healthcare policy advisor Amanda Makki in her race to challenge incumbent U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist in Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

Rutherford, who represents CD 10 in northeast Florida, based his endorsement on Makki’s diplomatic experience.

“Amanda Makki is the real deal. From her time at the Pentagon, working to help fight terror and keep us safe, to her years advocating for veterans and healthcare affordability, Amanda has just the right experience to serve Pinellas County with excellence,” Rutherford said. “Her fighting spirit and no-nonsense approach to cutting waste, keeping government out of our lives, and putting America first makes her the perfect person to represent Florida in Washington.”

Makki, an Iranian-American, is a former Senior Health Advisor to Alaska Republican U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who she served for seven years.

Makki, an attorney and former George W. Bush appointee to the Pentagon’s General Councils office on anti-terrorism issues, previously served as a partner with K&L Gates, a nationally-ranked public policy firm. She also currently served as Director of FDA Legislation and External Affairs for the Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk where she led the company’s external affairs and managed Food and Drug Administration-related legislation.

Prior to her private sector experience, she served as a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee during debate and passage of the Affordable Care Act. While serving in Murkowski’s office, she helped author health care legislation and amendments, and helped to set overall messaging and policy strategy.

Makki appears to be the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to take on Crist. She’s raised nearly double all of her Republican opponents combined, according to campaign finance data with the Federal Division of Elections.

Five candidates are currently running for the Republican nomination including Makki, Matt Becker, Anna Paulina Luna, Sheila Griffin and George Buck. A Sixth candidate, Sharon Barry Newby, has announced she will run but is not currently listed as a candidate with the Federal Election Commission.

Only one candidate, Buck, has exceeded six-figure earnings in their campaigns. Buck has raised $179,000.

Still, Makki is far ahead with $418,000 raised as of the most recent campaign finance reports available.

Crist, meanwhile, has raised nearly $1.2 million for his reelection and does not face a primary challenger.

Makki’s endorsement from Rutherford is the latest in a string of conservative nods including from U.S. Reps. Neal Dunn and Michael Burgess, the Maverick PAC, a group that seeks to replace vulnerable Democrats in office with conservative leadership, FreedomWorks and two groups seeking to elect Republican women to office — ViewPAC and Maggie’s List.

Makki was also named one of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s Young Guns list as one of 43 “On the Radar” candidates.

“Congressman Rutherford is a man of integrity and high morals who serves his constituents with distinction,” Makki said. “It is truly an honor to receive his support, which will go a long way in helping us unite Republicans all around to defeat unaccountable and ineffective liberal Charlie Crist.”

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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