Sexist pressure on Jessica Ehrlich to step aside for Alex Sink?
Jessica Ehrlich, the St. Petersburg lawyer running for a second time for the Congressional District 13 seat held for 42 years by the late CW Bill Young, keeps getting the same question: Will you stay in the race if Alex Sink runs for the Democratic primary too?
I asked her that a lot of different ways yesterday before Sink's announcement, and she repeatedly parsed her words to neither commit to staying in or say she would get out: "Right now I am running for congress as I have been for 21 months now."
Her campaign adviser, Shannon Marietta, said she wanted me to read an article before speaking to the candidate. She emailed me a piece from Slate headlined, "More Than a Woman: The unwritten and silly rule that only allows one woman to seek office at a time." The implication, I assume, was that it was sexist to even ask Ehrlich if she would challenge Sink for the Democratic nomination.
Believe me, we would have asked Charlie Justice the same thing.
Ehrlich is no slouch as a candidate, with decent fundraising (She raised nearly $270,000 through September this year and has about $160,000 on hand). And has picked up some prime endorsements, notably AFSCME even with Sink's name being discussed as a candidate. Asked today for reaction to Sink's candidacy, the Ehrlich campaign emailed me a news release announcing the endorsement of Ehrlich by the American Postal Workers Union.
Emily's List has put Ehrlich on its "List" of candidates to watch and support, but we suspect that group may be more enthusiastic about Sink. The former banker has been on their national board of directors, after all. UPDATE: Since this morning, when I saw Ehrlich on the Emily's List "List" and then called the group seeking comment about Sink and Ehrlich, the group has removed Ehrlich from the List. Ouch. Sexist much, Emily's List?
Until Young's announced retirement and subsequent death, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee had been touting Ehrlich, but these days the committee seems to have eyes only for Sink.
DCCC Chairman Steve Israel released this statement today: "Alex Sink’s results-oriented approach, business background and deep commitment to solving problems would help change the way Washington does business so that we can work together on creating jobs. As a business leader and Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, Alex Sink has shown she’s a problem solver with a record of working with Democrats and Republicans to get results, grow our economy and help businesses create jobs – exactly the values and skills which are so missing from the dysfunctional Congress in Washington.”
These can't be easy days for Ehrlich who has devoted nearly two solid years to campaigning for this this seat and now will surely face pressure to clear out of the way. But an opening in a seat as competitive as this one comes around once a lifetime - actually less in most areas of the country - and nobody should have expected the seat to be handed to them.
Right now, we'd bet more money on the Democrats avoiding a primary for the special election than the Republicans.