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Joe Henderson: In losing his seat, David Jolly found his voice. Republicans better listen.

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Losing an election can be liberating. At least it seems to be that way for David Jolly.

The former Republican congressman from St. Petersburg always had an independent streak, but he has gone full-blown solo since losing his seat last November to Charlie Crist in CD 13. He takes every opportunity on Twitter to bash President Donald Trump, including a jab about the suspension of live on-camera press briefings in a recent missive.

But that was small potatoes compared to what the jab he took on Lawrence O’Donnell’s program on MSNBC. He committed Republican heresy by actually praising the Affordable Care Act (see Care, Obama).

Jolly said that after losing the election, he was unemployed with a pre-existing condition. Having the Obamacare safety net was a great relief.

So, here’s what I’m guessing: While Jolly told O’Donnell he is considering a rematch against Crist in 2018, he likely is finished in big-time politics — at least as a Republican.

The national organization already considered him a rouge thorn for his disinterest in raising money; coming out in favor of Obamacare is the GOP equivalent of having serpents spew from his mouth.

Jolly is a pretty smart guy and I’m sure he has a good feel for how he stands in the eyes of party leaders. They likely would greet his potential candidacy with the same enthusiasm one has for an IRS audit. CD 13 is a primarily Democratic district anyway, so even if Jolly got the Republican nomination, party bosses would be unwilling to channel money his way.

Republicans could have a tough time holding onto their House majority and probably would be willing to invest in races with a greater likelihood of success.

Here’s the thing, though. While Jolly is playing with a nothing-to-lose swagger that infuriates GOP leaders, they really ought to pay attention to what he is saying.

They have already gotten an earful from constituents about health care, and the seeming rush by the Senate to approve a bill that could leave 22 million Americans without insurance reinforces the GOP’s image as a party that doesn’t give a hoot about the needs of ordinary people.

When a person like Jolly says that he faced potential calamity after losing his government health care, the message to everyone is that clear: The big shots take care of themselves and their buddies, and screw over everyone else.

In losing his seat, Jolly seems to have found his voice, and he isn’t afraid to use it. His Republican friends better listen.

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Joe Henderson has had a 45-year career in newspapers, including the last nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. He covered a large variety of things, primarily in sports but also including hard news. The two intertwined in the decade-long search to bring Major League Baseball to the area. Henderson was also City Hall reporter for two years and covered all sides of the sales tax issue that ultimately led to the construction of Raymond James Stadium. He served as a full-time sports columnist for about 10 years before moving to the metro news columnist for the last 4 ½ years. Henderson has numerous local, state and national writing awards. He has been married to his wife, Elaine, for nearly 35 years and has two grown sons – Ben and Patrick.

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