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Some Pinellas Republicans endorse Democrat Eric Lynn for Congress over Luna

Those endorsing Lynn highlighted his national security work and prior Washington experience.
Democrat Eric Lynn is running for Florida's 13th Congressional District.
Democrat Eric Lynn is running for Florida's 13th Congressional District. [ Courtesy of Eric Lynn campaign ]
Published Oct. 17, 2022

A group of Republican and independent elected officials in Pinellas County endorsed Democrat Eric Lynn over his Republican opponent for the Pinellas-based congressional seat, citing Lynn’s background in national security and his moderate values.

Lynn is running against Republican Anna Paulina Luna for Florida’s 13th Congressional District, which leans slightly red. He’s focused his campaign on appealing to moderate voters, while Luna has leaned into the conservative base.

On Monday, five current and prior elected officials announced their endorsement of Lynn, as did Beverly Young, a Republican and the widow of former U.S. Rep. Bill Young.

Beverly Young had previously endorsed Republican Amanda Makki over Luna in the primary. Young said the support of veterans is a primary issue for her, along with defense industries in Pinellas County. She emphasized Lynn’s work as a national security advisor under multiple secretaries of defense and said he is a “man of integrity and extreme credibility.” Young said she’ll be voting for Gov. Ron DeSantis and will still be voting for Lynn.

Bob Schmidt, the Republican mayor of Belleair Shore, also previously endorsed Makki but now endorses Lynn.

Republicans Jim Olliver, the vice mayor of the City of Seminole, and Redington Shores Commissioner Jennie Blackburn also announced their endorsement of Lynn. Indian Shores Mayor Patrick Soranno, who is registered with no party affiliation, also endorsed Lynn on Monday.

Former Pinellas County Commissioner Susan Latvala, who served as a Republican but is now registered without a party, also endorsed Lynn. This is not the first time Latvala has endorsed a Democrat; she supported former St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman in 2013.

In a statement, Latvala said Lynn’s prior experience in Washington would allow him to hit the ground running.

“Eric’s opponent has no meaningful experience to prepare her for this position,” Latvala’s statement said. “Only her very radical personal beliefs, which do not reflect the values of our community.”

Lynn earlier this year released an ad that included clips of Luna calling herself a “pro-life extremist” and saying she believed the 2020 election was stolen. On his Twitter account, he repeatedly refers to Luna’s “extremism” and has called her “an active threat to our democracy.”

Related: New Florida maps could change who wins Pinellas’ typically moderate congressional seat

Luna, a U.S. Air Force veteran and conservative commentator, has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump and the political action committee of the House Freedom Caucus. Her website says she opposes “radical left-wing gender theory” in schools and supports a secure border, American oil and gas and lowering taxes.

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During the news conference, Lynn criticized Luna for being opposed to the PACT Act, a bill expanding medical benefits to veterans exposed to toxic burn pits. Luna, who said her husband has been exposed to burn pits, previously said in an interview with Fox 13 that she believed the bill included unnecessary spending.

“This is the difference between political insiders like Eric Lynn and me,” Luna said in a statement. “I actually read the bills, and I’m honest about them. I won’t play with our tax dollars or veterans’ lives.”

Related: Tampa Bay Times 2022 General Election Voter Guide: Local candidates on the issues

Lynn thanked his Republican supporters for standing with him instead of the Republican on the ballot.

Lynn, a national security adviser under former President Barack Obama, has said he’s in support of gun reform, investing in public schools and protecting abortion access for women — positions that are popular with Democrats. But he also has supported ideas popular among Republican voters, such as investing money in police and securing the U.S. border.

His campaign has been knocking on the doors of Republicans, not just Democrats and nonpartisan voters.

In September, he announced opposition to the hiring of 87,000 new IRS agents as part of the Democrat-led Inflation Reduction Act. The opposition of the IRS agents has been a popular talking point among Republicans, who fear that enforcement agents will come for America’s middle class.

Florida’s 13th District was previously held by U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, who resigned from the seat to focus on his run for governor. The once-a-decade redistricting process made the seat lean in favor of Republicans by taking the boundary up to north Pinellas and splitting St. Petersburg, a primarily Democratic city, into two.