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Politics

Democrat Ehrlich raises $153K to challenge Young

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Published:   |   Updated: July 16, 2013 at 10:30 PM

TAMPA ญญ- Jessica Ehrlich, a Democrat challenging Republican Congressman C.W. Bill Young of Indian Shores, will report raising $153,737 during the second quarter of 2013.

That total may be enough to help keep alive her challenge to Young, one of Florida's most powerful House members.

"I'm very excited," Ehrlich said. "We have almost 500 individual contributors. This is definitely a people-driven campaign. This sets the tone for what we're going to do for the next 15 months."

Ehrlich's total, in her first quarterly financial report, is almost double the $86,000 Young has reported, she noted in announcing the figures. She said 42 percent of his money came from political action committees rather than individual donors.

Young, however, likely can drum up as much money as he needs.

As a member of the Republican majority with powerful committee assignments and long seniority - he's now in his 22nd term - Young has influence with well-heeled donors.

In particular, he holds a seat on the House Appropriations Committee and is chairman of its subcommittee on defense, providing leverage with military contractors.

It's Ehrlich second try against Young. She lost 58-42 percent in 2012, after spending $530,000 to his $1 million. She said she'll perform better this time because she got a late start in 2012.

A key question is whether she can raise enough support and money to convince the national Democratic Party it's worth getting involved in the race and helping her this time around. Raising more than $150,000 in her first full reporting period may be considered a positive sign by the party's U.S. House campaign arm, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

"I think they've been very pleased with what we're doing," she said.

Ehrlich is struggling for the same attention as Gwen Graham, daughter of former governor and Sen. Bob Graham. Graham is challenging Rep. Ted Southerland, a Panama City Republican, and has announced she raised $375,000 in the same period to start her campaign.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee considers Young's District 13 in southern Pinellas County winnable because it has voted Democratic in recent presidential elections.

The committee has targeted Young, but so far mainly with news releases and talking points. Committee Chairman Rep. Steve Israel, a New York Republican, held a conference call last week with reporters from other districts won by President Barack Obama but represented by GOP House member. Israel blamed those Republicans for the sequestration budget cuts that have led to furloughs for civilian defense employees.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman David Bergstein said Monday that Young's "weak fundraising" is a sign Young is vulnerable and out of touch, and Ehrlich's message "is clearly resonating with middle class families in the district."

Young didn't respond to a request for comment, but Katie Prill, spokeswoman for the Republican Party's congressional campaign arm, said he doesn't need to worry.

"At the end of the day," Prill said, "I think this will be a re-run of last time."

wmarch@tampatrib.com

813-259-7761

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