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David Jolly reacts to conservative criticism of his record

A close observation of Pinellas County Congressman David Jolly‘s record in the House indicates that despite the occasional pragmatic vote (he does represent a moderate district in Congress after all), nobody would accuse him of being a liberal.

Well, almost no one.

Today the Club for Growth, an economic conservative political group, came out with a statement blasting the newest entrant into the GOP Senate 2016 race, with their president, David McIntosh calling Jolly, “a big-spending liberal and former lobbyist who can’t win re-election to his House seat, so he’s taking a page out of Charlie Crist‘s handbook.”

“When you’re doomed to fail, find a new identity,” McIntosh said, referring to the fact that Jolly is leaving his CD 13 seat to run for the Senate in part because it may be impossible for any Republican to win after the Legislature redraws it up sometime later this year. “By jumping into the Florida Senate race Jolly is running away from a district where he knows he’ll lose in 2016,” he added.

In regards to deciding now to run for the Senate, Jolly admits that the Supreme Court’s ruling was a factor, but not the factor in his decision making process.

“The deciding factor is where’s the place that I feel confident that I can continue serving, and today I’m asking that people in Florida allow me to serve in the US Senate,” he said in an interview with Florida Politics.

The Club for Growth already endorsed Jacksonville Representative Ron DeSantis, who has a lifetime score of 95 percent with the Club, vs. Jolly’s 33 percent.

Jolly pushes back strongly against the assertion that he’s been a moderate in terms of his voting record. Yes, he supports same-sex marriage and voted against the Paul Ryan budget a year ago, but he proceeded to describe a number of votes that he said in some cases proved how truly a conservative he was, as opposed to who like “giving big speeches and taking to social media with rants and tirades.”

Those votes included:

Being one of just 17 House Republicans to oppose the GOP passed House budget. Jolly said it would add $400 billion to the debt. “Frankly, it was a dishonest legislative package that so-called ‘conservatives’ wrapped themselves in to come home and say they’ve done good work,” he sneered.

Voting (on the losing end) on an amendment by Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C, known as the A-PLUS Act, which would have allowed states to opt out of federal accountability entirely and send funding under the current law back to states in the form of block grants.

Voting against the National Defense Authorization Act. “I stood on principal and voted against it because it included money to arm the Syrian rebels, before Congress had fully debated our constitutional role authorizing war,” he said today.

Jolly calls such criticism “political gamesmanship,” saying that when people suggest that he’s not a true-blue conservative, it’s because they’re not actually used to seeing a conservative governing and taking responsibility for performing their job.

“The moment you began to actually govern responsibly, some of those who wish to tear me down are going to suggest that I’m somehow a less of a conservative, because I’m not willing to completely disrupt the government,” he asserts.

More predictable were the barbed comments received from opponents like the Florida Democratic Party. Spokesman Max Steele said, “Koch-backed Tea Partiers, a no-show Lieutenant Governor with more baggage than Rick Scott’s private jet can carry, and now a Washington lobbyist. Could Florida Republicans have assembled a primary field more out of touch with middle class voters than these four? No wonder this field is already being described as ‘weak.'”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee put in millions of dollars last year to defeat Jolly when he was running in the special election against Democrat Alex Sink. Today the DCCC took aim again at the man they failed to take down in 2014, writing, “Lobbyist turned Congressman David Jolly is just the latest out-of-touch Senate candidate to throw his hat into the crowded GOP Florida Senate primary, and after bouncing back and forth between Capitol Hill and the plush hallways of lobbying firms, he’s angling for a promotion. Congressman Jolly’s candidacy takes the situation for Republicans from bad to worse as they are now staring down a five person primary in one of the most important states for them to defend.”

Jolly is the fourth Republican to enter the race, alongside DeSantis, Lieutenant Governor Carlos-Lopez Cantera and former CIA contractor Todd Wilcox.

Written By

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

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