Panetta endorses Lynn
Eric Lynn served in the Pentagon in the Obama administration and has highlighted that experience as an advantage in his race for Congress in Pinellas County's 13th Congressional District.
On Monday, Lynn's former boss, Leon Panetta, endorsed him, saying Lynn has the "knowledge and courage" to uphold national security.
"I know Eric well, and as a valued advisor to me during my time as Secretary of Defense, he proved that he has the resolve, experience and good judgment that it takes to be a strong and effective leader in Congress," Panetta said in a statement.
Lynn, a Democrat, hasn't directly criticized his primary opponent, former governor Charlie Crist, but has repeatedly stated that his six years as a national security and Middle East policy expert gives him an edge in the race.
Panetta's backing is the latest endorsement for Lynn, who recently nabbed the national endorsement from the National Organization for Women.
However, Lynn's endorsements haven't moved the public opinion meter yet.
A Public Policy Polling robo poll, conducted last month of Pinellas Democrats, gave Crist a 71-11 lead.
And Crist has the endorsements of U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, Pinellas County Commissioners Ken Welch and Janet Long and most of the St. Petersburg City Council along with Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin.
Lynn has the support of St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, council member Charlie Gerdes and a host of Democratic club presidents and elected officials form Gulfport and other small cities.
Friday is the much-anticipated deadline for the latest campaign fundraising totals. Crist, who entered the race in October, about six months after Lynn, nearly closed the cash gap-trailing Lynn's $652,000 by about $150,000 in January's report.
The open seat was vacated by current U.S. Rep. David Jolly, a Republican, after the state Supreme Court ordered its boundaries to be redrawn last year, which brough a large chunk of Democratic voters in south St. Petersburg into the district. Jolly is now running for U.S. Senate.
So far, the only Republican candidates in the congressional race are retired U.S. Marine Corps reserve brigadier general Mark Bircher of Largo who finished third in the GOP primary in the 2014 special election after the death of Congressman C.W. Bill Young, and Paul DeCailly, an attorney who lives in Indian Rocks Beach.
Former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker has considered running, but hasn't announced his decision yet.