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Larry Ahern to challenge Janet Long in Pinellas Commission race

Ahern has until Friday at noon to qualify for the race.

Former Rep. Larry Ahern filed to run against Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long Wednesday.

Ahern has until Friday at noon to qualify for the race.

If he qualifies, he’ll run for the at-large District 1 seat representing northeast and mid-Pinellas.

Ahern’s entrance would set up a competitive battle between an incumbent Democrat and a former Republican state Representative with high name recognition.

Ahern previously served Florida’s 66th District in northwestern Pinellas County from 2012 to 2018. He served in Florida’s 51st district from 2010 to 2012.

In the Legislature, Ahern supported policies to lower taxes, cut red tape, increase school choice. He also supported anti-abortion legislation.

During his tenure in the House, Ahern was arguably the most conservative lawmaker in the Pinellas Legislative Delegation. He was an early supporter of then-candidate Donald Trump and generally sided with ultraconservative House leadership.

His wife, Maureen Ahern, previously ran unsuccessfully for Pinellas County School Board and supported recruiting religious leaders to speak in schools.

Long also served in the Florida Legislature. She proceeded Ahern in District 51, serving from 2006 until 2010.

Coincidentally, it was Ahern who ended Long’s legislative career.

In the 2010 election, he defeated her 50-44 with Tea Party candidate Victoria Torres snagging about 6% of the vote in a three-way race.

If he qualifies, Ahern will have a fundraising deficit to bridge. Long has already raised more than $71,000 for her reelection bid. Up until Wednesday, she was unopposed.

In his House races, Ahern proved to be a formidable fundraiser. In 2016, his final legislative campaign, he managed to raise nearly $140,000 for what ended up being an uncompetitive race — he trounced Democratic nominee Lorena Grizzle 58-42 on Election Day.

In the 2010 election against Long, Ahern won despite a 3-1 fundraising deficit.

Ahern has attempted to get on the Pinellas County Commission before. In 2018 he ran for the open District 6 seat, losing to now-Commissioner Kathleen Peters in the Republican primary 48-36 with Barbara Haselden receiving 16% of the vote in a three-person race.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at Janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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