David Jolly just proved that Republicans can win in swing states… in 2014 and 2016
Florida Republican David Jolly Sworn In As Newest Congressman
WSJ: Republican David Jolly won a coveted congressional seat in central Florida on Tuesday, dealing Democrats a significant loss and energizing the GOP nationally as the parties gear up for midterm elections in November.
The hard-fought race between Mr. Jolly, a 41-year-old Republican lobbyist, and Alex Sink, a 65-year-old former Florida chief financial officer, came down to the wire. It drew millions of dollars from the national parties and outside interest groups testing strategies for the fall and vying for an early victory in 2014.
Mr. Jolly captured 48.4% of the vote, compared with 46.6% for Ms. Sink and 4.8% for Libertarian candidate Lucas Overby, according to the Pinellas County supervisor of elections.
“This race is not about defending a broken agenda in Washington…This race is about serving the people in our own community,” Mr. Jolly said in his victory speech. “We must never sacrifice our creator’s sacred gift of liberty to us at the altar of big government.”
The results are likely to embolden Republican candidates intent on attacking Democratic opponents over the troubled rollout of the federal health-care law. Mr. Jolly and his GOP supporters made Obamacare a centerpiece of their attacks on Ms. Sink, seeking to wed her to the law and calling for its repeal.
Alex Sink. ZUMAPRESS.com
She argued that while parts of the law were problematic, it should be preserved and improved. She accused Mr. Jolly of wanting to “take us back” to a time when people were denied coverage due to existing conditions. It was a talking point many Democrats hoped would provide a road map for other candidates.
Instead, the Republican position that “Obamacare is going to be an albatross across Democrats’ necks” could gain traction, said Aubrey Jewett, a political-science professor at the University of Central Florida. He cautioned against reading too much into the outcome. “The thing about special elections is, sometimes they are bellwethers and sometimes they’re not,” he said.
Soon after the race was decided, Greg Walden, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in a statement that Ms. Sink “was ultimately brought down because of her unwavering support for Obamacare, and that should be a loud warning for other Democrats running coast to coast.”
More than $11 million was spent on the race, nearly $9 million of it from outside groups, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Ms. Sink “put this district in play despite Republicans spending $5 million against her, and she came closer to victory in a historically Republican district than any Democrat has in decades.”
Mr. Jolly’s win was especially impressive given that he was in some ways the underdog, said Rick Wilson, a GOP strategist in Tallahassee. Ms. Sink was more widely known than Mr. Jolly because of her past campaigns. Recent polls showed her leading her opponent by single digits.
Although Democrats have proved adept at turning out their voters in Florida in recent presidential-election cycles, “this tells you Republicans are taking the field operations seriously” as well, Mr. Wilson said.
The 13th Congressional District special election stemmed from the death in October of Republican Rep. C.W. Bill Young. He had represented the district, a haven for retirees on the Gulf Coast near Tampa, for nearly 43 years. Although the area was once firmly Republican, it became a swing district as younger people moved in.
The party district’s breakdown of registered voters is 37% Republican, 35% Democrat and 24% independent. President Barack Obama won the district in 2012 by less than two percentage points. In the campaign’s final stretch, residents found themselves bombarded by TV ads, phone calls and mailings supporting—and more often assailing—one or the other candidate.
Both sides enlisted high-profile surrogates, including former President Bill Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden for Ms. Sink, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul for Mr. Jolly.
Because of the area’s large senior population, the candidates clashed regularly on issues that concern retirees. In one debate, Ms. Sink suggested Mr. Jolly would seek to balance the federal budget by overhauling Social Security. He responded that he sought to guarantee the program by shoring up its finances and accused her of misleading voters.
Some analysts said Democrats had more at stake in the contest, given their efforts to recruit a well-known candidate like Ms. Sink and clear the field for her. “In some sense, it was theirs to lose,” Mr. Jewett said.
David Jolly celebrates his win at the Sheraton Sand Key Resort in Florida on Tuesday. ZUMAPRESS.com