While he’s not sure if he will attempt to resume his political career by running against Charlie Crist in Florida’s 13th Congressional District, former Republican congressman David Jolly says he will be part of another campaign in the future – a GOP effort to block Donald Trump from being renominated in 2020 as the party’s presidential nominee.
“The lessons of history would prove that a primary challenge would be unsuccessful, but, in someways, it would give some people in the party a place to land,” Jolly said earlier this month from an anteroom at WFLA-TV in Tampa, where he and former Democratic U.S. Representative Patrick Murphy had finished taping an interview promoting a series of speaking events taking place this fall on Florida college campuses.
Jolly and Murphy hitting the road to visit college campuses throughout Florida and the country. Their tour was delayed because of Hurricane Irma, but the duo’s first public is scheduled for the University of South Florida’s Marshall Center on Thursday, October 12.
The former congressional members say one theme they’ll emphasize during their lecture series is where can centrists and moderates find a home in the dysfunctional political atmosphere that dominates the nation’s capital.
Since losing his bid for re-election to Crist, Jolly has found a second life as a cable news commentator critical of Trump. Jolly says despite the fact that he’s alienated some of his fellow Republicans, it’s still the only political party he’ll ever belong to.
“People call me a RINO (Republican In Name Only). They say, ‘You should leave the party, you should run as a Democrat,” said Jolly. “There’s no home for me in Nancy Pelosi’s Democratic Party, right? And I’m certainly not going to start a third party. So I’m going to have this hard family conversation inside the Republican Party and to the extent that we can give a long lens of optimism to frustrated Republicans and Democrats, that’s who we’re hoping to speak to.”
“We’re looking to create a landing place that reassures your mainstream people on both sides that there’s a future in this,” Jolly said
Jolly said he thought Murphy would be the perfect partner for a speaking tour since they had became friends while serving in D.C. and both often ran into what Jolly euphemistically calls “roadblocks” from people in their respective political parties.
Murphy served in Florida’s 18th Congressional District for two terms (2012-2016), a lean-Republican district that he wrestled away from Tea Party favorite Allen West in an expensive and divisive election in 2012. He says he understands why Americans continue to become further alienated by party politics, but says he hopes the speaking tour will “sort of reinvigorate that spirit that your vote really does matter.”
“Not being in office doesn’t mean we can’t make a difference or can’t help out in another way,” said Murphy.
The 34-year-old Jupiter resident was bitterly opposed by progressive Democrats in last year’s U.S. Senate race, in which he easily won the nomination against liberal firebrand Alan Grayson and former U.S. Navy officer Pam Keith.
Murphy said he wasn’t surprised at all that he turned off some parts of the liberal base in the Florida Democratic Party, saying it was more “annoying” than anything else.
“It wasn’t like I hadn’t seen it in some other elections,” he recounts. “I guess I’m just slightly biased in that election against Alan Grayson, because I was surprised that certain people were actually supporting him despite all of his flaws.”
Not all that many people did support Grayson, however, as Murphy easily outdistanced the Orlando area representative, 59 percent to 18 percent.
Murphy and Jolly say that the issue of how congressional district lines are drawn, campaign finance reform and the power of special interests will be among the issues they’ll discuss during their tour.
Jolly was elected in 2014 in a district that was at the time one of the most competitive in the nation in terms of registered Democrats vs. Republicans. He says the question for him and others elected in swing states/districts is, how do you represent your entire constituency?
“Unfortunately in supermajority districts, there’s a tendency to represent just the voices that got you there, to just represent your party,” he says. “But there are times when people like Patrick and myself and others decide to take a different route, which is, how do you give voice to your entire constituency? And the moment you do that, the very people who got you there, who are your highest informed, most passionate partisans, begin to question your allegiance to them, to the party and to the extremes of your party. And what we talk about when we say structural changes, what we’re trying to do is to examine if there are changes that we can make through voter driven initiatives that empower elected officials to speak to a broader audience, without being punished for it. Because that is why if we live in a purple nation, or center-right or center, why are we defined by the voices on the extremes? It is because of this electoral process. That’s an almost impossible question to answer. Do you represent the people who got you there? Or your entire constituency? I think we want to believe it‘s the ladder, but in practice, we know most members of Congress just represent the party.”
For more information about the Jolly/Murphy tour, go to fixwashington2017.com.