Democrat Jessica Ehrlich, the St. Petersburg attorney who lost to Congressman C.W. Bill Young, R-Fla., last year, announced Wednesday that she is ending her second campaign for that congressional seat -- and Republicans are claiming U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is behind it.
Ehrlich's announcement came a week after former state CFO Alex Sink, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in 2010 who lost to Rick Scott, announced she is running for the seat. Young died in October after complications from a back injury after serving in Congress for 43 years.
Last year, Ehrlich held Young below 60 percent, the best showing a Democrat had posted against him in decades. Looking ahead to 2014 for a rematch, Ehrlich launched a second bid this year, though Young's death accelerated her timetable. Primaries will be Jan. 14 and the general election March 11.
"This morning I am officially announcing that I am suspending my campaign for Congress," Ehrlich said in a press release on Wednesday. "I want to thank my amazing staff, donors, and volunteers for everything they have done for our campaign. In particular, I would like to thank the hard-working men and women of the labor movement who have supported my fight for Florida's middle-class families.
"I also want to thank the voters of Florida's 13th Congressional District for their continued support, Ehrlich said. While this is not the result I was hoping for, I remain committed to helping the families of Pinellas County, this state, and this country."
Moments after Ehrlich pulled out, Republicans claimed Democrats at the national level are clearing the decks for Sink.
Katie Prill, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC), said Pelosi and her allies did not want a primary to hurt Sinks chances.
Instead of letting Florida families decide, Alex Sink and Washington Democrats forced their will on voters by demanding Jessica Ehrlich get out of this race, Prill said on Wednesday. It looks like the only candidate acceptable for Nancy Pelosi and her Washington attack dogs is an extreme liberal like Alex Sink who has a record of wasting Florida taxpayers money.
On the Republican side, David Jolly, a former Young aide, is expected to kick off his campaign for the seat Thursday.