In Pinellas, Alex Sink chooses a house and gets a clearer path to Democratic congressional nomination

Jessica Ehrlich, left, with U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md. SCOTT KEELER | Times
Jessica Ehrlich, left, with U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md.SCOTT KEELER | Times
Published November 6 2013
Updated November 6 2013

Democratic congressional candidate Alex Sink is close to getting two important things she needs for her campaign: the nomination and a house in Pinellas County.

Sink's path to the Democratic nomination opened up Wednesday when St. Petersburg lawyer Jessica Ehrlich announced she was no longer running in the Pinellas-based congressional district.

Sink almost immediately issued a statement of her own, thanking Ehrlich for her "willingness to step forward and speak out for Pinellas families."

On the housing front, Sink said she has picked a home in the Feather Sound area, although the sale is not yet complete.

Meanwhile, Republican candidate David Jolly scheduled a kickoff news conference for 2:30 p.m. Thursday in Indian Shores.

This campaign scrambling is because longtime Republican U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young — elected to Congress in 1970 — died Oct. 18. To fill his term, a special primary has been set for Jan. 14 and a special general election will be March 11.

The 13th Congressional District extends from Fort De Soto Park to Dunedin, but leaves out a wide swath of southern and downtown St. Petersburg.

Ehrlich, who as recently as Saturday asserted "I'm running for Congress," could not be reached after her email Wednesday. In her statement she praised Pinellas County voters and the "hardworking men and women of the labor movement."

Her statement did not endorse Sink, or even mention her for that matter. It also didn't specify Ehrlich's plans for the campaign contributions she has collected. She had more than $160,000 on hand as of Sept. 30. Ehrlich had been running before Young died, and ran unsuccessfully against him last year as well.

Sink is Florida's former chief financial officer, and was Democratic nominee for governor in 2010, losing narrowly to Rick Scott. She lives in Thonotosassa in eastern Hillsborough County, but after deciding to run for Congress said she intended to move to Pinellas.

"We're prepared to wage a very aggressive campaign, talk about the issues and win," Sink said Wednesday.

Sink said she intends to campaign on issues that include economic development, flood insurance rates, the need for beach renourishment, concerns about rising sea levels, and "building on the legacy that Bill Young had of support for veterans and making sure our military is prepared."

Besides Jolly, Republican candidates considering a bid include: Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, former Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard, former Pinellas commissioner Neil Brickfield and Safety Harbor Mayor Joe Ayoub.

Libertarian Lucas Overby also is running.

Staff Writer Curtis Krueger can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8232. Twitter: @ckruegertimes.