Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Politics

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 [email protected] or (727) 893-8232. Twitter: @ckruegertimes.

Comments
St. Petersburg regatta to Havana again buffeted by politics

St. Petersburg regatta to Havana again buffeted by politics

The 2017 St. Petersburg-Habana Yacht Race was celebrated as more than a competitive regatta to Cuba’s capital city of Havana.The relaunch of the maritime competition canceled since 1959 was hailed as a reflection of the detente started under former P...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Spring Hill candidate for Congress: ‘I care about this community — I will scream that from the rafters’

Spring Hill candidate for Congress: ‘I care about this community — I will scream that from the rafters’

SPRING HILL — A Hernando County woman new to the political arena has filed as the fifth Democrat to run against longtime Florida lawmaker U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster for his spot in the U.S. House of Representatives.Dana Cottrell, 49, has lived in Sprin...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Special counsel files new charge in Russia probe

Special counsel files new charge in Russia probe

WASHINGTON — The special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election charged an attorney Tuesday with lying to federal investigators about his interactions with a former Trump campaign official. A charging document filed in federa...
Published: 02/20/18
Man featured on ‘Trump Dating’ site has child sex conviction

Man featured on ‘Trump Dating’ site has child sex conviction

GREENSBORO, N.C. — A North Carolina man with a felony conviction for indecent liberties with a child was one-half of the poster couple for a new "Trump Dating" website.News outlets reported Monday that visitors to the dating site geared toward suppor...
Published: 02/20/18
Ex-workers at Russian ‘troll factory’ trust U.S. indictment

Ex-workers at Russian ‘troll factory’ trust U.S. indictment

Associated PressST. PETERSBURG, Russia — While Russian officials scoff at a U.S. indictment charging 13 Russians with meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, several people who worked at the same St. Petersburg, Russia, "troll factory" say t...
Published: 02/19/18
Trump offers support for limited effort on background checks

Trump offers support for limited effort on background checks

Associated PressWEST PALM BEACH — From the confines of his Mar-a-Lago golf club, President Donald Trump offered support Monday for a limited strengthening of federal background checks on gun purchases while staying largely mum in the past few days ab...
Published: 02/19/18
For the weary White House, Florida shooting offered a ‘reprieve’ from scandals

For the weary White House, Florida shooting offered a ‘reprieve’ from scandals

The White House was under siege.Domestic abuse allegations against a senior aide were ignored, pointing to a potential high-level coverup. Two Cabinet secretaries were caught chargin taxpayers for luxury travel. A Playboy centerfold alleged an extram...
Published: 02/19/18
President Trump expresses support for senators’ gun bill

President Trump expresses support for senators’ gun bill

President Donald Trump signaled support for one piece of gun control legislation on Monday, five days after a mass shooting at a Florida high school left 17 people dead and scores injured."The president is supportive of efforts to improve the federal...
Published: 02/19/18
Do Trump’s alleged affairs even matter?

Do Trump’s alleged affairs even matter?

One of the quotes from the 2016 presidential campaign that has stuck with me came from an unidentified Donald Trump supporter who shared his appraisal of the "Access Hollywood" tape on an episode of Showtime’s "The Circus."Having heard Trump boast on...
Published: 02/18/18
Survivors of deadly school shooting lash out at Trump

Survivors of deadly school shooting lash out at Trump

PARKLAND, Fla. — Students who escaped the deadly school shooting in Florida focused their anger Sunday at President Donald Trump, contending that his response to the attack has been needlessly divisive. "You're the president. You're supposed t...
Published: 02/18/18