Former Pentagon official Eric Lynn challenging U.S. Rep. David Jolly

Published April 7 2015
Updated April 8 2015

Eric Lynn, a St. Petersburg native and former adviser to three secretaries of defense, is running to replace David Jolly in Congress.

"I'm running for Congress to fight for good-paying jobs and the pathways to bring them about — currently blocked by politics and politics alone," said Lynn.

The 36-year-old Democrat and St. Petersburg High School graduate moved back to Pinellas in October, after working in the Defense Department, and has been talked about as a potential candidate for the swing district since Republican C.W. Bill Young died in 2013. Former Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink narrowly lost to Jolly in a special election in March 2014 and he faced no Democratic opposition in November.

The district, covering much of Pinellas County, is among the most competitive in the country, with Barack Obama having won it in 2008 and 2012. Lynn, so far the only credible Democrat in the race, is running in a presidential election year likely to produce high Democratic turnout, but Jolly should be a formidable incumbent, having positioned himself as more pragmatic than many congressional Republicans on issues including the budget and same-sex marriage.

Jolly is out of step with Pinellas County, Lynn told the Tampa Bay Times.

"I watched and listened to the 2014 congressional races and Republicans like David Jolly ran on the message of improving the economy and jobs," said Lynn, who is married with two young children. "But unfortunately once they won and began to govern the first three things that they wanted to vote on was restricting a woman's right to choose, trying to de-fund the Department of Homeland Security, which protects U.S. citizens and Floridians against terrorism, and trying to repeal Obamacare for the 60th time. That's not working for the economy and jobs for the people of Pinellas County."

Lynn may be unknown to most Pinellas voters but he is well-connected politically, having worked on the Obama campaign as a Middle East Policy adviser, as well as on the 2006 gubernatorial campaign of former U.S. Rep. Jim Davis. He currently works at a global consulting firm headed by Francisco Sanchez, President Obama's former Under Secretary for International Trade at the U.S. Department of Commerce and a former Tampa mayoral candidate. Developer Craig Sher will be finance chairman of Lynn's campaign.

Lynn graduated from Northwestern University and holds a law degree from Georgetown University.

Jolly engaged

Congratulations are in order for U.S. Rep. Jolly, 42, on his engagement to Laura Donahoe.

His office declined to offer up details of whether they have set a date. Donahoe, 28, used to work for Jolly's lobbying firm and now works for his former investment firm in Pinellas. She was often at his side during his campaign for Congress. The Indian Shores Republican is divorced.