Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

GOP takes aim at Alex Sink while waiting on Rick Baker

Now that Democrat Alex Sink has jumped into a Pinellas congressional race with a primary election less than three months away, pressure is mounting on Republicans to prove they too have a candidate with fundraising might and potent name recognition.

Sink told the Tampa Bay Times on Tuesday she's running for the congressional seat vacated by longtime Republican U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, who died Oct. 18.

The National Republican Congressional Committee struck back within hours, launching a website slamming "Sink's long career of wasting Florida voters' money with no remorse."

Local Republicans added plenty of carpetbagger barbs about Sink's plan to move from Thonotosassa in Hillsborough County into Pinellas — state Sen. Jack Latvala called it "the height of arrogance."

But all acknowledged that Sink, a former Florida chief financial officer who narrowly lost the governor's race to Republican Rick Scott, has wide name recognition and fundraising power.

That means the GOP must show it has someone who is "at least as good a match, you might say, in name recognition and the ability to raise money on their side of the aisle," said Darryl Paulson, professor emeritus of government at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

Former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, the Republican candidate with likely the best name recognition and presumably a formidable fundraising network (he worked closely with the campaigns of George W. and Jeb Bush) remains on the sidelines. Latvala said there are several qualified Republicans but some are holding off "to give Rick a little priority on it."

Another well-known local Republican, Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, said on Wednesday that numerous people have asked him to run and "I'm interested, but I'm not sure the timing is right." He said he wants to continue projects he has begun as sheriff and also is concerned about the impact on his family.

A slew of other Republicans are considering a run, including Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos, former Pinellas Commissioner Neil Brickfield, former Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard, former state Rep. Larry Crow, Pinellas Commissioner Karen Seel, former Young aide David Jolly, former U.S. Senate candidate Sonya March, publisher Michael Pinson, Young's wife Beverly, Young's son, Bill Young II, and Young's brother, Tom.

Libertarian Lucas Overby is running as well.

On the Democratic side, it's not just Sink. St. Petersburg lawyer Jessica Ehrlich ran against Young last year and was campaigning against him even before his surprise retirement announcement and subsequent death.

Her campaign took a blow this week when Sink entered. Ehrlich's name was dropped off Emily's List as an endorsed candidate. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman issued a statement praising "Alex Sink's results-oriented approach," without mentioning Ehrlich.

But she did not respond. A spokeswoman said Ehrlich would not be available for an interview this week.

The governor's office Wednesday confirmed dates for the special election to fill out Young's term. The primary election will be Jan. 14 and the general election March 11. Another primary and general election will be held on Aug. 26 and Nov. 4 to elect someone to the full two-year term.

That's four elections in 11 months. And whoever runs in the special election will face an awkward challenge — campaigning during the holidays.

Adam Smith and Steve Bousquet contributed to this report. Curtis Krueger can be reached at or (727) 893-8232. Twitter: @ckruegertimes.

GOP takes aim at Alex Sink while waiting on Rick Baker 10/30/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 30, 2013 10:01pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays blow another lead, lose rubber match to Orioles (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Orioles rallied past the Rays on Sunday, winning the rubber match of the three-game series 8-5.

    Baltimore Orioles left fielder Trey Mancini (16) scores in the sixth in the final game of a three-game series between the Tampa Bay Rays and AL East rival the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, June 25, 2017.
  2. Tim Tebow heads back to Sunshine State with promotion to St. Lucie


    Tim Tebow is coming back to the Sunshine State.

    Columbia Fireflies outfielder Tim Tebow looks out from the dugout before the team's game against the Augusta GreenJackets on April 6 in Columbia, S.C. Columbia defeated Augusta 14-7.
  3. 'Sharknado' coming to Tampa Theatre with director Q&A


    A movie about a tornado filled with man-eating sharks has to be better on the big screen, right? You'll have a chance to find out for yourself when the Syfy network's original Sharknado screens at Tampa Theatre.

    The original 'Sharknado,' which premiered in 2013, will screen at Tampa Theatre.
  4. Coast Guard airlifts man from fishing boat in Gulf of Mexico

    Public Safety

    A 27-year-old man was evacuated from a fishing boat in the Gulf of Mexico by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter Saturday night, authorities said.

  5. Trump: Not 'that far off' from passing health overhaul


    WASHINGTON — Making a final push, President Donald Trump said he doesn't think congressional Republicans are "that far off" on a health overhaul to replace "the dead carcass of Obamacare." Expressing frustration, he complained about "the level of hostility" in government and wondered why both parties can't work …

    President Donald Trump speaks during a bill signing event for the "Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017" in the East Room of the White House, Friday, June 23, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) DCEV208