Former Clearwater Marine Aquarium CEO David Yates endorsed Anna Paulina Luna for Florida’s 13th Congressional District, her campaign announced Tuesday.
Yates is credited with turning the aquarium around, from a once struggling small facility to a profitable must-see attraction near Clearwater Beach.
The aquarium is home to Winter the dolphin, whose story was made into a Hollywood family blockbuster and put the facility atop the region’s tourism appeal.
Yates stepped down in January after a 14-year tenure and overseeing an $80 million expansion.
“Anna is an energetic leader, dedicated to the Pinellas community, and is committed to doing what is right,” Yates said. “She has the empathy needed to represent our citizens’ interests truly, and she has the conviction and courage to stand up to the lobbyists and special interests in search of insider deals at our expense.”
Luna is running in a crowded Republican primary. The winner will take on incumbent Democrat Charlie Crist.
Luna is running as a staunch conservative and President Donald Trump ally.
“It is an honor to have David’s endorsement,” Luna said. “He is a pillar of the City of Clearwater, and greater Pinellas community whose work has greatly benefited our region’s economy, culture, and international reputation. I am grateful for his support and look forward to working with him to move Pinellas forward.”
Yates is the first to endorse Luna in Clearwater, the district’s second-most populous city behind St. Petersburg.
Last week, former Republican St. Pete Mayor Bill Foster also endorsed Luna.