David Jolly wins Republican nomination for Pinellas County congressional district

01/15/14 Janelle Irwin
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Tags: David Jolly, Kathleen Peters, Mark Bircher, Alex Sink, Bill Young, CD 13 Pinellas County


Congressional District 13 Republican candidate David Jolly fielded questions from Republicans at a forum this month.

photo by Janelle Irwin

Former lobbyist David Jolly won the Republican primary for Pinellas County’s Congressional district. The seat was vacated in October when 43-year incumbent Bill Young passed away. During his acceptance speech Tuesday night at the Marriott Hotel in the Carillon business district, Jolly emphasized his relationship with Young, who he used to work for.

“I stand here tonight as a Pinellas County Bill Young Republican. A Bill Young Republican that knows in Washington D.C. we have a spending problem not a revenue problem, that the greatest threat to our national security is not some young man who wants to blow up his shoe on an airplane, it’s irresponsible and reckless fiscal policies out of Washington D.C. that will cripple our economy and ensure that we are no longer the world’s lone superpower.”

Jolly defeated state Representative Kathleen Peters and retired Marine Corps Brigadier General Mark Bircher with nearly 45% of the vote. Peters came in second with 31%. Despite a recent surge in polls, Bircher finished with only 24% of the vote.

“I want to thank tonight, General Mark Bircher, a fine and distinguished gentleman who I am now proud to call a friend of mine. I had the opportunity to speak with him and we have agreed, as well as with Kathleen Peters, that this is about bringing the party together and making sure that we’re victorious on March 11th. I also want to thank state representative Kathleen Peters. She got into this race with a strong conviction that voters deserved a choice. It is not easy to be a candidate. Mark and Kathleen have put themselves out there in front of the people over the past two months at great sacrifice to themselves and to their families. We owe them a debt of gratitude for doing so and I congratulate them tonight on a race well-run.”

Peters, whose election party was about a mile away at Bascom’s Chop House on Ulmerton Road, played phone tag with Jolly after it was clear Jolly had clinched the Republican nomination. She said she’ll have a conversation with him about whether or not to support his campaign in the general election. For now though, Peters said she’s focused on continuing the job she already has in the state legislature.

“You know, at this point, I’m enjoying this evening and I will be leaving for Tallahassee first thing in the morning. I’ve got an appropriations meeting tomorrow afternoon. So, what’s next is tomorrow – getting up to Tallahassee and fulfilling my obligations there for the people in my district – District 69. I’ve got work to do and I’ve been very successful in Tallahassee representing District 69 and I’ll continue to do that.”

Peters and Jolly campaigned hard against one another over the federal healthcare law. Jolly is turning that heat now on the Democrat in the March 11 election – Alex Sink.

“My new opponent in this race spoke to the Washington Post this weekend – a paper I’m sure she enjoys reading – and she made the comment that wherever she goes she does not have people walking up to her complaining about Obamacare. Well folks, she is not walking around Pinellas County.”

Jolly said he’ll make repealing the law a priority if he’s elected and spent about half of his speech talking about it. He said he’d replace it with a private sector solution mirrored after life insurance. But he also took jabs at Sink about moving from her home in Thonotosassa to Clearwater in order to qualify for the seat in Congress. Political analyst and USF professor Susan McManus said that is unlikely to be important in a race that is receiving national attention.

“This is the only time I can recall where there’s a battle about who lives where and who’s a Washington insider and who’s a hometown boy or girl. Residency politics isn’t normal, but Obamacare politics is and that’s really what’s going to be the focus.”

Sink, who lost a 2010 bid for governor against Rick Scott, has already raised more than $1 million. Jolly acknowledged that his campaign is unlikely to match her fundraising power, but criticized national Democrats for handpicking a candidate instead of finding someone who actually lived in Pinellas County.

“I believe Alex has already purchased about $300,000 worth of network TV time. They’re going to step out way ahead of us in paid media. We’re going to win on the message. You give me $5 to get our message out [and] we’re going to win this race.”

Jolly also touted his close relationship with the Young family. The only member of the family not to endorse him was Young’s son Billy. But even he showed up for Jolly’s election night party. USF’s McManus said that’s another campaign strategy that may not benefit Jolly now that he’s won the primary.

“Because these were, of course, Republican primary voters who had a choice between other Republicans, but felt an affinity and a closeness with the Congressman. But now it’s on to the General Election and this particular district, Republicans only outnumber Democrats by about 2.4% and there are 28% who are neither Democrats nor Republicans, so that’s where the fight’s going to be.”

Throughout the campaign Jolly has also promised to take action on rising flood insurance premiums. He weighed in on plans to delay the Biggert-Waters Act that eliminated subsidies to pay for a deficit in the National Flood Insurance Program.

“A bad flood insurance law today is a bad flood insurance law four years from now. Delaying it is simply not enough.”

According to the Pinellas County Supervisor of Election’s website, 43% of the votes in the special primary election were cast by mail-in ballots. Voter turnout in this race was 48%.

In addition to Sink, Jolly will face Libertarian Lucas Overby and write-in candidate Michael Levinson in the March 11 election. Mail-in ballots will be sent out beginning February 4.

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