"He's been in office for almost half a century and his views and what he’s doing just [don’t] represent the values of the people in Pinellas County anymore," Ehrlich said, speaking with this reporter and the Tampa Bay Times' Angie Drobnic Holan, just after concluding an hour-long meeting with a group of seniors featuring Democratic House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer at her campaign office.
Like the majority of House Republicans, Young voted for the Paul Ryan budget that slashes trillions of dollars in federal spending over the next decade, and just as controversially Medicare reforms — an issue that Democrats are more than happy to take advantage of this summer, especially when addressing senior audiences (there were eight local seniors at the meeting, most of them from local Democratic clubs in Pinellas or St. Petersburg).
Ehrlich has a distinguished resume as she runs for public office for the first time, including stints clerking for the chief judge of the U.S. Federal Court in Tampa and working as a staff member for both Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill. But she's also a hometown girl campaigning in her native area, and shows no fear of criticizing Bill Young, something that other local Democrats in the past have been hesitant to do.
"He’s voting in lockstep with this rigid, partisan agenda that is just divisive and is not moving us forward," she said. "People are not happy with their performance in Congress, and they recognize that at this point we really need fresh leadership. It takes a lot of work, a lot of work needs to be done, and we need to be represented by someone who can go and do that."
When asked if Young has been in Washington too long, Ehrlich said essentially yes, saying he's lost touch with his constituents by supporting the Ryan budget.
Ehrlich is not yet the Democratic candidate to run against Young, however. There's another candidate by the name of Nina Hayden who is not bowing down to Ehrlich, despite the fact that national Democrats like Hoyer are actively supporting her.
Hayden told CL last week when asked about Ehrlich that "those D.C folks are great, but when it comes to local politics and winning on the local level, I think it’s important to have the local support. It’s important to have events that are here locally."
In the wake of President Obama's announcement two weeks ago that he supports same-sex marriage, Hayden told CL that she disagrees, saying she believes marriage should be between a man and woman. When Cl asked Ehrlich that question today, she responded by saying, "I think it's wonderful for the president to come out and support same-sex marriage. I think we should have no discrimination of people regardless of their sexual identity, of their race, of their religion. Discrimination is beneath us as a country at any level."
But she quickly followed up by adding that the message that people want to hear about is about how to get the economy rebounding. "People want to know they can pay their mortgage, they wanna know that they’re going to have a job and they wanna be able to get gas and buy food and take care of their families, and I think those are the issues we have to focus on.”