David Jolly easily handled Mark Bircher in the GOP primary contest in Florida’s 13th Congressional District.
Now, the Indian Shores Republican is turning his full attention to defeating Charlie Crist, which won’t be easy.
Jolly defeated Democrat Alex Sink in a special election in March 2014 by just 1.8 percentage points. That was when the district did not include more liberal enclaves of downtown and South St. Petersburg, making it much more favorable for a Democrat to win in 2016.
Trying to set the mood from the onset, Matthew Van Name, Crist’s campaign manager, issued a memo to the media on Wednesday laying out the reasons why his candidate is the man to beat on Nov. 8.
“On Day 1 of the General Election, Charlie Crist is leading Republican David Jolly in polling, fundraising, and grassroots support,” the memo begins.
Van Name goes on to compile information that is statistically accurate — that Crist won the newly configured district by 15 percentage points in the 2014 gubernatorial run against Rick Scott in a year where turnout was less for Democrats than is expected to be the case in a presidential election year. That 15-point margin is twice as better than how Crist did in the old CD 13. In the 2012 presidential election, Van Name notes how Barack Obama won the new district by ten percentage points — and says the breakdown of voters that year was 40 percent Democrats, 37 percent Republicans, and 23 percent non-party-affiliated or other third party groups.
Last fall, Jolly admitted that CD 13 was one that “no Republican can win.”
“We were leaning very strongly into staying in the House. I ran to be in the House,” he said while speaking to the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club in Clearwater last October. “The truth is the Supreme Court later created a district that virtually every person in the political sphere will tell you, no Republican can win.”
Jolly made those comments while he was already well into his race for the U.S. Senate, a race that he dropped out of this past June when Marco Rubio decided that he would run for re-election to the seat. Three other Republicans running in that race — Ron DeSantis, Todd Wilcox and Carlos Lopez-Cantera — also dropped out, while the lone Republican who remained in the race, Carlos Beruff, was crushed by Rubio in Tuesday night’s Senate primary, losing by 54 percentage points.
Also in the memo, Van Name giddily recounts the chill existing between Jolly and the National Republican Congressional Campaign — a chill that exploded after NRCC officials strongly denied Jolly’s assertion on “60 Minutes” this past spring that he was told at a meeting shortly after being elected that he needed to raise $18,000 every day.
Officials with the NRCC so far have indicated they won’t be providing financial resources to aid him this fall.
“The NRCC was not included in his ‘deliberations’ and has not had any discussions with David about him running for re-election,” said Katie Martin, a spokeswoman for the NRCC, after Jolly announced he would run for the seat again in June. “We do not — and will not — comment about commitments for financial support or anything else.”
The NRCC issued its own memo Wednesday, where they praised Jolly as a “strong advocate … who has spent his entire career working on behalf of the people of Pinellas County.” Conversely, they lambasted Crist, saying, “Democrats are left with perennial candidate Charlie Crist who has been consistently rejected at the ballot box ever since he hightailed it out of Tallahassee when things got tough. Under Crist’s failed leadership as governor, Florida lost nearly 800,000 jobs and saw unemployment skyrocket 217 percent. That is a record Crist will have to answer for in the general election.”
However, Van Name is right to say that it’s questionable whether or not the NRCC will help out Jolly financially in his tight re-election campaign. There have been conflicting reports, but as of now, the NRCC has not said they will provide financial support.
“Most importantly, Jolly isn’t right for Pinellas County,” he writes. “First as a Washington lobbyist, and now as an out-of-touch Republican congressman, he is failing the middle class, women, and seniors.
“He has advocated for privatizing Social Security and Medicare, wants to overturn Roe v. Wade and defund Planned Parenthood, lobbied for offshore oil drilling, and voted against millions in VA funding increases that would help veterans get the care they need.”
Van Name also notes that a recent poll by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research showed Crist beating Jolly by a 50-38 percent margin.
The Jolly campaign released their own poll in June showing their man leading Crist by the same 50-38 percent margin.
On election night, Crist issued out a statement, saying that “it saddens me to think that anyone who supports Donald Trump’s agenda could ever represent Pinellas County.” However, Jolly has made a big deal about how “he’s not there yet” in regards to supporting Trump.
“Charlie lied to voters in his very first statement of the general campaign,” says Jolly spokesman Max Goodman. “And in the midst of an impending hurricane is engaged in gutter politics.”
“Charlie’s latest memo of misleading smears against Congressman Jolly is nothing more than the typical garbage and lies Florida has come to expect from an untrustworthy, disgraced former governor who once again is trailing in the polls and thinks the only thing he needs to recover his lost political legacy is a lot of money in the bank and Washington politicians in his pocket,” Goodman added in an email to FloridaPolitics. “As with Jolly’s last four election victories, the congressman knows the only thing that counts is having the people of Pinellas behind you. To that end, and unlike what Crist did during his 18 years in office, David Jolly will continue doing what he always does — his job.”