The likeliest Republicans to jump into the race to succeed outgoing U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young in 2014 so far appear to be former Pinellas County Commissioner Neil Brickfield and former Young aide David Jolly.
"I'm leaning more for running than against," said Brickfield, who lost his County Commission seat last year after backlash against him for voting to remove fluoride from the county water system.
"I'll never vote against fluoride again. I've certainly learned my lesson, and I've been thinking about it long and hard for a year," said Brickfield, brushing off the suggestion that his 2012 loss could raise doubts about his strength in 2014.
"I've run four countywide elections," he noted. "Why wouldn't I be as good a candidate as anyone else?"
Jolly, 40, a lobbyist and former general counsel to Young, is likely to open an exploratory account next week. He would bring extensive Washington political and fundraising contacts to a campaign.
Meanwhile, two potentially formidable Democratic contenders, County Commissioner Ken Welch and former state House Speaker Peter Wallace, took themselves out of the running Friday.
"That's not a race I am going to run," Wallace said.
In a Facebook message Welch referred to the recent death of his father, former St. Petersburg City Council member David Welch: "This is an important time of healing and transition for my family. My focus is on my family and my current duties as a Pinellas County commissioner and chairman. I offer my sincere thanks to my friends and supporters, with the knowledge that for everything there is a season, an appointed time and a purpose."
Lawyer Jessica Ehrlich already is running for the Democratic nomination, and with Young's retirement other potential primary rivals include County Commissioners Charlie Justice and Janet Long.
"It's something that we're considering," Justice said. "The first thing is do you want the job, do you want to go through the campaign, do you want to work with the Congress that's there now? And on the personal level: the travel, the time away from family, that's a huge consideration. And the third thing is I'm really enjoying the commission and some of the things we're able to get done."
Long sounded more ambivalent: "I used to talk about one day running for Congress and then as you get older, you think, 'Oh, well.' "
Young's retirement "changes the complexities of politics in Pinellas County, or has the potential to anyway," she said.
Other well-known Republicans who could mount strong campaigns include Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos, former Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard, former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, and County Commissioner Karen Seel. Young's son, Bill Young II, is also looking at the race, and GOP consultant Nick Zoller is expected to run, too.
"I have some people that are honoring me with their support. I think it's long been known that I was interested in serving at a national level," Seel said.
Libertarian candidate Lucas Overby is also running.