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Race for Florida’s 13th district brings in national, local endorsements

Former President Donald Trump has endorsed Anna Paulina Luna, but other candidates tout high-level support.
Anna Paulina Luna (right) and Amanda Makki (left) are two of the four GOP candidates running to represent Florida's 13th congressional district.
Anna Paulina Luna (right) and Amanda Makki (left) are two of the four GOP candidates running to represent Florida's 13th congressional district. [ Photos courtesy of Amanda Makki campaign and Anna Paulina Luna campaign ]
Published Nov. 12, 2021|Updated Nov. 29, 2021

Donald Trump’s fundraising visit to Tampa on Monday hinted at a major focus for the Republican Party ahead of the 2022 midterms — flipping Florida’s 13th congressional district in an attempt to regain control of the U.S. House.

The seat, left open after U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist decided to run for governor, covers south Pinellas from Clearwater down and includes St. Petersburg and Largo. Currently four Democrats, four Republicans and a Libertarian are running.

According to Anna Paulina Luna’s spokesperson, James Blair, the former president will fundraise for Luna in December. She won the primary in 2020 but lost to Crist in the general election by 6 percentage points.

“This is an important race because it is ‘key’ to taking back the House,” Trump said in his September endorsement of Luna.

Though the fundraising arm of the party does not endorse candidates in the primary, both Luna and a GOP opponent, strategist Amanda Makki, are part of the National Republican Congressional Committee’s Young Guns program. It supports conservatives who meet fundraising goals and campaign infrastructure targets.

Makki qualified for the program after a quarter of fundraising. On Wednesday, she was also named as a “Woman to Watch” by U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik’s group E-PAC, a national effort to increase the participation of Republican women.

“Chairwoman Stafanik’s dedication to supporting women in Congress is groundbreaking,” Makki said in a statement. “I’m thrilled to be a part of this First Slate of Women to Watch.”

All four of the Republican candidates for the 13th district are women. Along with Luna and Makki, nonprofit founder Audrey Henson has launched a campaign. Henson announced on Facebook that she was “so proud to have the support” of St. Petersburg businessman Bill Edwards. A spokeswoman for Henson said the candidate wasn’t vying for the attention of “career politicians” and instead was focused on earning support from voters.

If you grew up in Pinellas County like me, than you know #LocalLegend Bill Edwards. Bill helped support St. Pete Mayor...

Posted by Audrey Henson on Wednesday, October 13, 2021

In early November, Christine Quinn, who has lost twice to Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor in Tampa’s 14th congressional district, filed to run.

Luna, who worked for Turning Point USA and made a name for herself as an outspoken conservative commentator, has won endorsements from national Republicans like Newt Gingrich and radio host Charlie Kirk.

Makki has been endorsed by six Pinellas County mayors, and Thursday announced her endorsement from Beverly Young, the widow of former Congressman Bill Young. Young said in a statement that seeing the “terrible campaign” Luna ran in 2020 inspired her to speak out after eight years of political silence.

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“We need to win and Amanda Makki has the energy, dedication, and perseverance to take back CD 13,” Young said in a statement.

Of the Democrats, Rep. Ben Diamond, D-St. Petersburg, has been endorsed by multiple county commissioners, city council members and mayors, along with former mayor Bob Buckhorn and former Florida CFO Alex Sink.

Michele Rayner, the first Black, openly queer woman elected to office in Florida, received an endorsement from the political arm of the Congressional LGBTQ Equality Caucus and the action group Democracy for America.

Eric Lynn, a national security advisor who worked under former President Barack Obama, is running for the seat as a Democrat and Frank Craft, a small business owner, is running as a Libertarian. Lynn has been endorsed by former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, he said on Facebook.

I’m honored to have earned the endorsement of my former boss and great American leader, Secretary Leon Panetta, who has...

Posted by Eric Lynn on Tuesday, October 26, 2021

A newly-formed political action committee, Progress Pinellas, will launch an ad supporting Lynn on Sunday during the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game.

Christian Hotchkiss, a service worker, is filed to run as a Democrat for the congressional race, but in August also filed to run for Florida’s House of Representatives in District 70, which Rayner currently represents.

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