Jessica Ehrlich says the fact that the DCCC has been able to control who runs for Congress in the past two election cycles in CD13 is a manifestation of the fact that the Pinellas County Democratic Party is still working to assert itself.
Ehrlich was the 2012 Democratic nominee who lost to the late Bill Young in his last re-election campaign back in 2012. Despite the 15-percentage-point defeat, it was the closest any Democrat had gotten to the legendary Congressman in 20 years. She was working on running again in 2014 when Young passed away last fall, putting into motion the mechanics which ultimately saw the party — specifically the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) — choose Alex Sink to be their nominee in the special election that took place last March. Ehrlich conceded running for the nomination at that point.
"I didn't want to have any sort of splintering in the party," she told this reporter on WMNF's Last Call
radio program Thursday afternoon. "I wanted to make sure that we had our focus on winning this seat. Because we should win it. We should have won it. It [CD13] should be a Democratic member of Congress."
But as all know, it's not, with Sink losing to Republican David Jolly by less than 2 percentage points back in March.
Sink announced in April she would not run again this November, and Ehrlich announced her own decision declining to run herself shortly after. She's now working on a yet-to-be-announced project that she says will be about helping Democrats get elected in the Southeast, and she's pontificating on an almost daily basis as a commentator on a variety of programs on the Fox News Channel and Fox Business Channel. In fact, a malfunctioning GPS system in her car caused her to be late to her interview at WMNF after doing another Fox segment from their local affiliate off of Kennedy Boulevard in Tampa.
As the deadline for a Democrat to declare for the November election beckoned a week ago, Democrats in Pinellas County appeared in complete disarray. The only declared candidate at one point, St. Petersburg NAACP head Rev. Manual Sykes, dropped out of the race after he was told by no less an authority than Mark Hanisee, Democratic Executive Committee Chair in in Pinellas, that he'd be "persona non grata" if he opted to stay in the race. In a voicemail message Sykes played for a Tampa Bay Times
reporter, Hanissee said Sykes didn't have the backing of two of the most important voices in current Pinellas Democratic politics, Sink and St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman (Of course, Kriseman later denied
he ever said so).
Along with some personal criticisms of Sykes, Hanisee said the fact that he didn't live in the district and had never run for office were also detriments to a potential candidacy.
That made it all the worse then when the DCCC last week finally found a candidate to prop up, retired military Colonel Ed Jany; he too has never run for office, and also lives outside the district. Not just a few miles away, either (like Sykes does), but completely across the bay in Hillsborough County — as was also the case with Sink.
Ehrlich, a local St. Pete girl who went away to New York and D.C. before returning back to the 'Burg a few years ago, said going outside the county to find a candidate is a mistake.
"They always say all politics is local, but really especially when you've got a district like Florida-13 where this is one county that makes up the entire congressional district. So it's a very personal, community-based election that has to go on," she says, adding that going forward, the Party needs to create the infrastructure to have a deeper bench of candidates.
"We've got these great people who want to represent our area who have the ability and the credentials to do it," she says. "Then let the voters decide and have a primary and let the whole process play out ... I think that's what people really want to see in general."
At this point Democrats can only hope that Jany can be as competitive as Sink was in March. A St. Pete Polls survey released Friday by blogger Peter Schorsch
shows Jolly, who's been in office less than two months, skunking Jany by a margin of 50-21 percent, with Libertarian candidate Lucas Overby at 10 percent.