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If David Jolly runs again in 2018, would rank-and-file Republicans support him?

Unless you’ve been boycotting cable news, former Pinellas County GOP Congressman David Jolly has been a ubiquitous presence, thanks to his unflinching takedowns on Donald Trump, the titular head of the Republican Party.

“Donald Trump is done,” Jolly opined on “11th Hour with Brian Williams” last month after the Justice Department named Robert Mueller as the special counsel to oversee the investigation into ties between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials.

While that independence from GOP orthodoxy makes the former lawmaker a desired quantity on MSNBC and CNN, the feelings among some rock-ribbed Republicans toward him aren’t nearly so warm and fuzzy.

That independence has led some observers to believe that Jolly is done for the time being for politics, but the former aide to longtime Congressman Bill Young said this week that the idea of running again in Florida’s 13th Congressional District is something that is “actively under consideration.”

Any decision won’t come until next January, however, when he says he’ll have a better idea on when can take the temperature of the “macro political environment.”

“But I’m also not convinced that Charlie (Crist) runs for re-election,” he says. “I think there’s a lot that can change between now and ’18 and so it’s still something under active consideration.”

Kevin Cate, a spokesperson for the Crist campaign, declined to comment.

Susan McGrath, the chair of the Pinellas County Democratic Executive Committee, often takes to her Facebook page to disparage Jolly after he appears on the cable networks criticizing the president.

“David Jolly is the consummate example of a politician that wants to portray himself as something he’s not in order to fool the voters of CD 13 so that he can try to win back his old seat,” she told in an email.

McGrath continued: “He had no issues with the Republican Party when he ran in a district that had a Republican advantage. He may try to run from the Republican Party and Donald Trump, but the fact is he lobbied for the privatization of Social Security, lobbied in support of offshore drilling, dismissed his vote to deny additional VA funding as ‘a procedural vote’ and for ‘bricks and mortar’ and sponsored legislation to defund Planned Parenthood and on and on. To present himself as moderate is simply not honest. His record speaks for itself.”

Jolly counters by pointing out he was for same-sex marriage and radical campaign finance reform well before CD 13 was reconfigured from a swing seat to a what is now a very Democratic-leaning district.

While the Pinellas Democratic chair is commenting on Jolly, her GOP counterpart is not.

Republican Executive Committee Chair Nick DiCeglie initially told he would answer the question of what Pinellas Republicans think of Jolly, but ultimately chose not to respond to further inquiries on the matter.

Another prominent Republican official in Pinellas would also not comment publicly on Jolly, but when promised anonymity, said he didn’t see a path for Jolly in the district.

“If your intention is to rally around the base, that’s not the way to do it,” the official said. “He must be trying to rally the independents, but I don’t know if there’s enough runway there for him to take off.”

“I appreciate his honesty and candor if he wants to have a career as a pundit or something,” he added. “But as far as trying to get people to rally behind you, that’s certainly not the way to go.”

Adding to the issue is while some Republicans feel personally ambivalent about Trump, they will still rally around the president when attacked by Democrats and (they say) the liberal media.

“In my observations, he alienated Trump Supporters and Second Amendment supporters before his failed election,” says Dan Tucker, a Pinellas County Republican State Committeeman.

“However, I like David as a person but what I understand from Republican Club members who are typically an older ‘die-hard conservative’ crowd, is that they feel he has lost it while some are openly hostile toward him and feel betrayed,” Tucker says. “I consider him a ‘Never Trumper’ and vying for Joe Scarborough’s job as a Progressive Republican.”

For George Hudak, a GOP political consultant from Palm Harbor who often works with Republicans in New York, the bigger question is will Democrats support a moderate Republican like Jolly over Crist.

“I think David is a truth speaker, he stands up for what he feels is right,” he says, referring to his fight against the National Republican Campaign Committee which resulted in that group opting not to help fund him in such a competitive election in 2016. “David has a lot of integrity; he and Laura are still loved by many Pinellas Republicans.”

Anthony Pedicini believes it doesn’t really matter who is the GOP candidate in CD 13.

“I do not think a Republican can beat Charlie Crist in the district as it is currently configured,” says the GOP political consultant.

Jolly lost to Crist in 2016 by 3.4 percentage points. That was without any financial help from the National Republican Campaign Committee, who essentially wrote him off after a dispute regarding the commitments made.

Paraphrasing John Kasich, Jolly says he also gets the right to define Republicanism in the 21st-century: “In many ways, I’m fighting for the future of the GOP and fighting for our brand, if you will.”

“The clearest strategy for 2018, if my only interest was running for re-election, would be to keep my mouth shut,” Jolly says. “I mean every consultant on the left and right would tell you — keep your mouth shut, raise money, keep your head down, and then we’ll figure out how to deploy campaign resources three months out — so that is the strategy.”

“If I was just worried about strategy, but I’m not. I’m calling balls and strike, and see what the field looks like next year, but there’s a good chance I’ll be on the ballot, and I will not have the full support of Republicans, nor will I bring over progressive Democrats who disagree with me on policy, but I do think we can put together a majority of Republicans, independents and Democrats and hopefully do what I was trying to do last cycle, which was to truly change politics. “

With all that, Jolly still says he is a “long way” from making a decision.

Former prosecutor, young GOP leader Berny Jacques contemplating run for House District 66

Former Pinellas County Assistant State Attorney Berny Jacques is seriously considering a run for the state House District 66 seat next year, which will become an open seat with Republican Larry Ahern term-limited out.

The 29-year-old Haitian native has been active with the Pinellas County GOP since he arrived in the community in 2009 to attend Stetson Law School in Gulfport. That’s when he says he was drawn into the grassroots aspects of state government.

In many ways Jacques and his family are the embodiment of the American dream. His parents worked two and sometimes three jobs concurrently when they moved to the states in the mid-1990’s.

“They had to work hard to put their children in a better position,” he says. “And to see me go to college and graduate and become an attorney all within their lifetime, I mean, that’s a strong testament to what this nation has to offer, and I think that’s made possible by a free enterprise system that capitalizes on people’s desire to work hard.”

Jacques’ father currently teaches English as a second language in Naples, Florida, while his mother works as a registered nurse at a nursing home. He says they always stressed the power of education when he was growing up.

“They said if you take your schooling seriously and you apply yourself, you can stand shoulder to shoulder with anyone.  I’ve always taken that with me and ran with it.”

Jacques was president of the Pinellas County Young Republican club in late 2013 when longtime U.S. Representative Bill Young died, igniting what would ultimately be one of the most expensive congressional campaigns ever. He got behind David Jolly’s candidacy early on. He also assisted on the campaigns of Chris Latvala and Chris Sprowls in 2014.

If he pulls the trigger and announces later this spring for 2018, he says his platform will center around three main tenets – public safety, education and job creation.

Regarding education, he says you can expect him to be a strong advocate for school choice. On business, he talks about the importance of government creating “the environment” for businesses to grow.

Now working at the St. Petersburg law firm of Berkowitz and Myer, Jacques considers himself “very pro Second Amendment,” saying that he wants to put individuals in the position too protect themselves as much as possible.

On the battle between House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Governor Rick Scott regarding whether or not it’s a good thing to offer tax incentives to lure businesses to Florida, Jacques doesn’t take sides, saying  that “it’s important to understand that they both have the same goals, and that’s to create jobs for the state of Florida.” He does state that the doesn’t want government to choose between winners and losers.

On transportation, Jacques adamantly opposed the 2014 Greenlight Pinellas transit tax. Yet he also says that he wouldn’t oppose changing state law to allow big cities like St. Pete or Tampa to hold their own referendums. Current law only allows counties to do that.

For the past several years, both Rick Kriseman and Tampa’s Bob Buckhorn have unsuccessfully lobbied Bay area legislators to give them the power to tax themselves to pay for rail projects in recent years. Jacques says as a legislator he wants to hear what the people say, and if they want the right to tax themselves, he says he wouldn’t stop them.

“I’m all for empowering voters to make decisions, so  if the people of St. Pete feel it’s appropriate, and it’s clearly stated that here’s the funding structure, and here’s what you’re going to be on the hook for, if they decide then they decide that,” he says, adding that his baseline philosophy is to err on the side of empowering the people to make the decision themselves. “I would probably vote no if you asked me to raise taxes, but my fellow citizen might feel otherwise.”

Barclay Harless announces run for St. Petersburg City Council

Barclay Harless, a 31-year-old banker and former aide to state Sen. Darryl Rouson, will be running for District 2 seat on the St. Petersburg City Council next year.

Harless announced Tuesday he will be seeking the seat currently held by Jim Kennedy, who is term-limited out of office next year.

“We have a great city and we want to keep it that way and we want to improve upon everything that’s been built over the past two decades,” Harless said last week as to why he’s running for Council.

Speaking at Hawkers Asian Street Fare in the city’s Edge District, Harless believes millennials like himself are continuing to be a part of the fabric of the St. Petersburg.

“They’re opening businesses. They’re becoming policemen and teachers, and so I want to preserve what we’ve built and fix what’s not working.”

What’s not working?

“We have an infrastructure challenge,” referring to one of St. Pete’s major stories of the year — sewage system problems that has been gripping City Hall for months.

Harless also mentions the continuing work with the Pier. If elected, he wants to amend the city’s permitting process.

“Just naturally being at a bank with a lot of small businesses,” Harless says, “you hear from folks who have opened up businesses in Sarasota and Tampa and elsewhere.

“They’ll tell you that the St. Pete permitting process is challenging, compared to some of the others.”

Another improvement would be on the lack of affordable housing for middle-income people in St. Pete. Harless suggests the city look at changing zoning requirements, freeing up more housing for people without children or pets.

“We need to rezone some of these areas that are maybe single family homes that were made for two bedrooms and one bathroom,” he says, quickly adding that it should be “privately driven.”

“But I think the city can encourage private industry to move in that direction.”

When asked about how he feels Mayor Rick Kriseman has handled the sewage problem, Harless is sympathetic, saying that leaders need to solve problems; he believes that the city now has a set plan going forward to deal with major storms.

However, the closest Harless comes to criticizing anyone on the matter is when he mentions Mike Connors, the longtime city public works administrator who resigned abruptly a year ago.

“I know he had a lot of power in a very central location,” Harless says. “And sometimes in an organization, that can cause fear.”

Crime is a concern that needs to be taken seriously, Harless notes.

“I have a lot of friends who say they’ve been the victim of criminal activity, and they say ‘I’m not going to bother with filing anything,’ and I always tell them, file it,'” he says, adding that with more data, the more likely that city leaders can understand the underlying issues behind such activities.

Running for political office at this stage of his life wasn’t something he was thinking about until about a year or so ago, until officials with both the St. Pete Chamber and some nonprofit agencies suggested he might be a viable candidate in District 2.

Harless was born in Melbourne, Florida, and has lived in St. Petersburg since he began attending USFSP more than a decade ago.

After graduating, his first job was as a legislative aide to Rouson.

“It was a pleasure working for Darryl because he’s just so involved. Not just in the Legislature, but he’s also active on the local level,” Harless recounts. “He has his hands on all types of projects, so even if he wasn’t working on them, he wanted to be informed about them if they impacted his area.”

In late 2013, Harless left Rouson to become a campaign scheduler for Alex Sink, who had just announced her campaign for Florida’s 13th Congressional District, which opened after the death of C.W. Bill Young.

Following that campaign, Sink, a former banker herself, suggested Harless get into the banking business,

The “best advice I ever got,” he says.

In May 2014, he was hired by Trevor Burgess, the then-chief of C1 Bank in St. Petersburg, as a business development officer.  In May 2016, Harless was promoted to assistant bank officer, shortly before CI was sold to Bank of the Ozarks.

Harless worries about street parking, saying he knows of some business owners who were forced to leave downtown because it has become too big of a problem for them — specifically Ricky P’s Orleans Bistro, which closed shop this past summer in the Edge District for its location on 4th Street.

Harless’ political aspiration began in college. He was elected student body president at UFSP, but his brief reign ended ignominiously in 2007, after alcohol was found in his campus office.

Facing the threat of an impeachment proceeding conducted by the Student Government, Harless resigned.

“I was 22 years old,” he says deliberately, clearly prepared to be asked the question. “It was after a long day. I invited some good friends of mine back to my office. It was night time. It was after hours. I violated campus policy.

“It’s changed since then,” he recounts, “but back then you have to file for a ‘social’, essentially, and I dealt with it. I lied about it initially, and then I took responsibility for myself and resigned.”

In retrospect, he says that in some ways it was one of the best things that could happen have happened to him. “I hate to say it was a testing phase of my life … I didn’t violate any laws, you know? But it was a lesson I’ll never forget, and it means a lot to me.”

Harless becomes the first candidate to announce for District 2 in the upcoming election cycle, to represent the area encompassing the northern part of the city.

Councilmembers Darden Rice and Amy Foster will also be seeking for re-election in Districts 4 and 8, respectively. The District 6 race will also feature new candidates, as incumbent Karl Nurse is term-limited out next fall.

David Jolly campaign calls on TV stations to pull new DCCC ad linking him to Donald Trump

The David Jolly campaign is crying foul over a new ad produced by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) that links the Pinellas County Republican with Donald Trump. The Jolly camp calls it a “fake and deceptive television ad,” because it uses photoshopped photos of Jolly posed next to Trump. The Jolly camp says there are no actual photos between the two men because they have never met each other.

“This ad is a new low, even for the DCCC and Charlie Crist,” said Sarah Bascom, spokesperson for the Jolly for Congress campaign. Jolly is running against Crist in what has become an increasingly bitter battle for the 13th Congressional District seat, held for over 40 years by Republican Bill Young until Jolly won a special election to replace him in early 2014.

“This ad not only falsely attempts to link David Jolly to Donald Trump, even though he has publicly said he does not support a Trump candidacy, but it also has multiple photoshopped pictures of David Jolly throughout the ad,” Bascom says. “David Jolly has never met or spoken to Donald Trump, which is evidenced by the fact that they had to doctor up fake images because no picture of them together actually exists.”

Since Trump’s emergence in the presidential race more than a year ago, Jolly has mostly been critical of his candidacy, and has decidedly not endorsed him for the Nov. 8 election.

Adding to the anger of the Jolly camp: they say Crist is the actual candidate in the race who has a background with Trump.

“In fact, this ad would be more accurate if they used a picture of Charlie Crist with Donald Trump, which there are many resulting from the long relationship Charlie has with Mr. Trump,” said Bascom. “Mr. Trump has donated to Charlie Crist and has supported Charlie Crist in past campaigns, which actually leads to the next question. Why hasn’t Charlie Crist denounced Mr. Trump for the comments he has made towards women in the recent interview tape, or publicly denounced any comments Mr. Trump has made?

“Is it because he is secretly supporting Donald Trump and does not want to speak ill of his ‘backup’ candidate for president? Or could it be that Charlie is secretly playing both sides in the presidential election? Or is it because the person that is actually in those pictures with Donald Trump is Charlie Crist?”

The Crist campaign has not responded to a request for comment.

The Jolly team also is calling on local television stations in the Tampa Bay market to stop airing the ad, contending that images in the ad are “patently false.”

“As you are aware, the ad is not being paid for, authorized by, nor offered by a candidate,” writes Tallahassee-based attorney Roger N. Beaubien to Kelly Lastra, national sales manager with WFLA-TV and WTTA Great 38. “Therefore, the advertisement is not protected political speech by a candidate as contemplated by the Federal Communications Commission.”

“Please be advised should you refuse to withdraw the advertisement from on-air play as of the date of the receipt of this notice, we are prepared to pursue all legal remedies against your station for the continued airing of the deceptive and misleading ad,” Beaubien adds.

The CD 13 race is distinct in that it is one of the few — if not the only — race in the country where a Republican is questioning a Democrat about their association with Trump. Although Trump has given campaign contributions to politicians from both major parties over the years, Crist received donations from Trump while he was a registered Republican, an affiliation he changed in 2010 before becoming a Democrat in 2012.

“Once again, we call on Charlie Crist to denounce the comments made by Donald Trump, and now we call on him to denounce this fake and deceptive television ad produced by his friends in the Democratic national establishment,” said Bascom. “If Charlie Crist truly is a ‘man of the people,’ like he claims, then he too should call for the removal of an ad that knowingly and intentionally lies to the people of Pinellas County.”

The DCCC is not backing down, however.

“David Jolly can’t take issue with the facts that he, like Donald Trump, would outlaw women’s right to choose and defund Planned Parenthood, so instead he is trying to keep voters from hearing about his record,” said DCCC spokesman Jermaine House.

“The truth hurts, and no matter how hard Jolly tries to keep voters from hearing it, they will know exactly how similar Jolly is to Trump when they walk into the voting booth.”

And late on Wednesday afternoon, attorneys with the DCCC wrote to those same TV stations about the request by Jolly to take down the ad.

Attorneys Daniel B. Nudelman and Aria C. Branch with the Washington based law firm of Perkins Coie write that, “Notably, the letter does not challenge any of the content of the advertisement. Rather, its only argument is that the advertisement contains photo-shopped images depicting Representative Jolly with Donald Trump. But as the letter acknowledges, each of these images is accompanied by an on-screen written disclaimer that reads “DRAMATIZATION.” It is clear from both the context of the ad and the accompanying disclaimer that the images are not real, but are used to depict what the future might look like if voters support Representative Jolly’s candidacy. There is no risk of confusion on this point. The images simply contribute to the advertisement’s central message that Representative Jolly and Donald Trump share the same dangerous positions on important issues and that if Mr. Trump is elected president and Representative Jolly is reelected to his seat in Congress, he will support Mr. Trump’s agenda on these issues. This advertisement is accurate in every respect, raises critical public policy issues, and should continue to air.”

Beverly Young says she’s voting for Charlie Crist in CD 13 race

Beverly Young announced Thursday she’s voting for Charlie Crist over David Jolly in Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

Young made the announcement by placing a photo of her ballot on her Facebook page showing she had scribbled the bubble next to Crist’s name.

Young is the widow of Bill Young, who represented Pinellas County in Congress for more than 42 years before he died three years ago at the age of 82.

Shortly after his passing, Mrs. Young announced she would support Jolly in the special congressional election to succeed her late husband, and ultimately appeared in an ad endorsing him in his race against Democrat Alex Sink. Jolly was a former senior adviser to Young who was said to have been viewed as virtually a member of the Young family.

But her attitude towards Jolly changed when she said he reneged on his deathbed promise to Bill Young that Jolly would maintain Young’s staff immediately after the election.

“He made promises to my husband that he was going to continue to carry on his legacy, and the first thing he did was dump the people who made his legacy what it is,” Young told WFLA’s Lauren Mayk a month after Jolly’s election. “He’s made a mockery out of my husband’s life and his legacy.” Jolly told the press shortly after that interview that he was no longer speaking to Beverly Young.

Until this past June, Jolly was not intending to run again for the seat. But his ambitions to run for Senate ended when Marco Rubio announced he would run again for his Senate seat.

“World has changed so much,” Young wrote on her Facebook page, which also showed a picture of her selecting Donald Trump for president. “I can’t look away from Benghazi and pretend that 4 Americans, pleading for back up, were ignored and slaughtered and can’t believe Jolly is still saying Bill is his mentor, when Bill would be totally disgusted and ashamed how he has handled his district of 50 years.”

It should be noted that Beverly Young wasn’t exactly friendly towards Crist in the immediate aftermath of Bill Young’s death. She sent him an email after his passing to tell Crist “your presence at my husband’s memorial services will be unacceptable.”

“I have watched over the years, as Bill had, your transparent attempts to manipulate the political arena,” she wrote. “I don’t want my husband’s memorial service to be another opportunity for that and I will not tolerate anyone turning this into a platform for political gain.”

David Jolly embraces his independence from Washington in new TV ad featuring him with a dog

Harry Truman once said if you wanted a friend in Washington, “get a dog.” In a creative twist on that famous phrase, David Jolly is emphasizing his political independence in his first television ad in his bid for re-election to Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

Jolly has been derided by officials from the National Republican Congressional Campaign after he went on “60 Minutes” this spring to speak about the STOP Act, his proposal that would ban federal office holders from raising campaign contributions. The upshot is that the D.C.-backed organization may not come to his financial aid as Jolly fights to win a district that has been reconfigured in a manner much more favorable to the Democrat in the race, Charlie Crist.

The ad features Jolly’s work on the STOP act, veterans issues and his “no fly, no buy” proposal, legislation he says would protect Americans by closing a firearm background check loophole and prevent potential terrorists from purchasing guns, all by showing clips from news anchors from MSNBC, CNN, and the ABC affiliate in Tampa praising him for his efforts.

“Members of Congress spend too much time raising money,” Jolly says in the ad while talking to his dog, Huck, clad in a “Truman 2016” T-shirt. “And they don’t do enough for our veterans. And they don’t get we can prevent terrorism and protect the Constitution.”

The Crist campaign has reveled in Jolly’s issues with the NRCC. Campaign manager Matthew Van Name cited the strained relations between the group and Jolly in a memo last week.

Jolly narrowly won the CD 13 seat over Democrat Alex Sink by less than two percentage points in the special election to succeed the late Bill Young in 2014. After the district was one of eight that was ruled to be drawn up in violation of the state’s Constitution last year, its new boundaries now include much more of the city of St. Petersburg, making it much friendlier for a Democrat to win.

Jolly dropped out of his race to run for the U.S. Senate seat Marco Rubio was said to be leaving last year. Just before Rubio decided to run again for re-election to his Senate seat in June, Jolly dropped out of the Senate race, and is now running for re-election to his congressional seat.

Watch the ad below:

Joe Henderson: Mark Bircher supporting Donald Trump could help David Jolly in CD 13

In a typical election year, Republican Mark Bircher would have a real point of attack against primary opponent U.S. Rep. David Jolly in the race for Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

Bircher supports GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Jolly gives every indication that he does not.

“We cannot accept divided loyalties when so much is at stake,” Bircher said in a statement. “If Rep. Jolly refuses to endorse Mr. Trump, the Pinellas Republican Party Leadership should throw its full support to the 13th Congressional District House candidate who supports the nominee.

“If the Party will not support Party unity, then the voters must do so on the ballot.”

As we know, however, this year is anything but normal.

Bircher’s attack just reinforced what an albatross Trump has become to his own party.

Carlos Beruff is trying the same approach in the Republican U.S. Senate primary race against incumbent Marco Rubio, even though Rubio has actually endorsed Trump. Beruff has run TV ads saying he is “proud” to stand with Trump while implying Rubio doesn’t.

It smacks of desperation, given that reported Rubio leads by 33 points in the latest survey from St. Pete Polls. At this point, Beruff looks like the quarterback of a team trailing by four touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Every play is a Hail Mary.

Likewise, Jolly appears to have little chance of losing to Bircher in the Aug. 30 primary. And in a newly redrawn district that seems to favor Democrats, going all-in with Trump would be a dubious strategy in a general election. Jolly likely faces a tough enough battle against former Gov. Charlie Crist without adding Trump to the mix.

Jolly has been a maverick since succeeding the late GOP icon Bill Young in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2014. Although he is conservative, Jolly also supported same-sex marriage and has been open to tightening gun laws. He also has balked against spending up to four hours per day on party-ordered fundraising calls.

And with Trump getting loonier by the day, many Republicans are either stampeding to get as far away from him as possible or at least keeping a discreet distance from their toxic nominee.

On the other side of that argument, though, are the true believers in Trump. He did beat a field that included 16 other Republican presidential candidates, and he walloped Rubio in the Florida primary.

And while polls in many states show his candidacy cartwheeling out of control, the latest Quinnipiac Poll shows Trump trailing Clinton by only one point in Florida.

Rock-ribbed GOP party members are trying to pressure all candidates to stand by their man, so what’s the answer?

For Jolly, that seems to be maintaining a discreet and evasive silence regarding Trump. In that sense, Bircher’s gambit may wind up helping Jolly.

It reminds voters that even as a Republican, Jolly wanted nothing to do with the most controversial presidential nominee since, well, forever.

Mitch Perry Report for 7.7.16 – Tea Party Patriots heart Marco Rubio

f you remember when we first heard about the Tea Party in early 2009, its supporters talked about having a pox on both houses – that is, they felt that Republicans and Democrats were part of the same dirty cesspool that is Washington D.C.

A lot of things have changed since then, but I became a bit cynical in early 2010. That’s when the late C.W. Bill Young received a Tea Party challenger by the name of Eric Forcade in his Pinellas County congressional election. Anyone remember him?

To go back to a story I wrote for Creative Loafing back in 2010, Forcade said the problem he had with Young wasn’t his famous predilection for earmarks, but that ” “we have 535 Bill Youngs out there, with everyone trying to bring pork home. It’s not just him, it’s everyone stealing from Peter to pay Paul, as long as Paul is one of his constituents.”

Two months later, Forcade endorsed Young. Hypocritical? Forcade said not really, and that Young was still far preferable than Young’s Democratic opponent that year, Charlie Justice.

“Do you support the guy who’s spent more than $500 million in earmarks, or the guy [Justice] who’s part of the problem by supporting spending a trillion dollars on health care and cap-and-trade and other government takeovers?” he said at the time.

Flash forward to yesterday, when Tea Party Patriots endorsed Marco Rubio over Carlos Beruff in the Florida Senate race.

Group leader Jenny Beth Martin said in her statement that yes, Rubio did essentially stab the Tea Party activists who helped elect him in 2010 in the back with his support for comprehensive immigration reform, but all is forgotten, because he’s now seen the light on the issue.

“Let’s be frank: That mistake hurt him with Tea Party activists in Florida, and across the nation,” she said. “But he now says he recognizes the difficulty of dealing with such an issue in a comprehensive fashion, and instead supports a one-at-a-time approach – first, implement real border security, and don’t make any further moves until the public agrees that our borders are secure. Then, and only then, will we be able successfully to move on to other aspects of the immigration reform agenda. Tea Party Patriots believes that will be a successful strategy, and we support Sen. Rubio’s decision to follow that course.”

Far be it for me to suggest what the Tea Party is or who they should represent. However, on a number of fronts, one can argue that Senator Rubio is very much a creature of Washington these days. But there are several folks in the Senate who wear their Tea Party roots strongly – Utah’s Mike Lee, Texas’ Ted Cruz, perhaps you could say Kentucky’s Rand Paul. So why not Rubio?

Has the Tea Party “gone Washington” themselves? The message certainly has changed a little bit since those halcyon days in ’09…

n other news…

A D.C. watchdog group is calling on the Florida Inspector General and the Commission on Ethics to investigate Pam Bondi’s lack of an investigation of Trump University. 

Hillsborough County State Attorney Democratic candidate Andrew Warren was rebuked by a federal judge last year for requesting a couple of days off.

Joni Ernst keynotes a big Americans for Prosperity Florida event in Orlando in September.

Ben Diamond is challenging Eric Lynn to a series of debates before the Aug. 30 Democratic primary in House District 68.

Ed Narain goes up with the first ad in the Senate District 19 campaign.

And Equality Florida says that the fundraising campaign for the victims of the Orlando shooting massacre last month has now raised over $7 million.

David Jolly says he intends not to mention Charlie Crist’s name at all in their blockbuster congressional match-up

Two years ago, special interest money out of Washington made the special congressional election in Florida’s 13th District between David Jolly and Alex Sink one of the most expensive of all time. While it’s unlikely that the spending will exceed the reported $12 million that was spent in 2014, it’s a race that the Democrats will desperately try to win – especially if they believe that they have the ability to win the entire House of Representatives because of the deleterious affects of a Donald Trump candidacy affecting down-ballot races.

Friday afternoon in Clearwater, CD 13 Representative David Jolly confirmed the rumors – he is dropping out of the Florida GOP Senate race to run for re-election against former Governor Charlie Crist.

“I’m asking my community simply for the opportunity to keep doing my job,” Jolly said after a seven-minute preamble to explain the circumstances that led to his decision. “Today I’m announcing that I will seek ree-lection to the US House of Representatives, for Pinellas County.”

Speaking inside an airplane hanger at the Clearwater-St. Petersburg airport, Jolly confirmed that the filing deadline of June 24 compelled him to decide on his political future this week, and he said that he made it in concert with his wife Laura within the past 48 hours.

Rumors that Jolly would drop out of the Senate race accelerated with the concurrent stories that failed presidential candidate Marco Rubio has been having second thoughts about not running for re-election, and could very well enter back into the race. Jolly was the only one of the five GOP candidates who have been running  for the seat to say outright he would drop out if that scenario played out.

Jolly has bemoaned the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling last year that the CD 13 district was one of eight in Florida that were drawn up in violation of the state constitution in 2012, saying that it had been an ideal swing-district, a rarity in American politics these days. He was quoted last October as saying that no Republican could win the seat, begging the question: Why does he think it’s viable now?

The Congressman answered by saying that his comments at the time are still valid, citing the double-digit margins of victory that President Obama enjoyed in 2012 and Crist did while running for governor in 2014. “By entering this race, I believe as a sitting Republican House member, we might have the most challenging race for a Republican in the country, in a very expensive media market, against a very well qualified candidate in Charlie Crist, who has shown that he can win races. So I am not naive with the challenge we are undertaken.”

He went on to say he didn’t know or care what current polls say, but these are the facts: a St. Pete Polls survey conducted recently shows Jolly to be in a straight-up tie with Crist, and reportedly private polls conducted by state Senator Jack Latvala show Jolly actually leading Crist.

Crist supporters were quick to note that Jolly’s narrow, two-percentage point victory over Sink in 2014 occurred when turnout was less than 40 percent, and said in this year’s presidential election the turnout could be as a high as 75 percent. And they noted that in 2014, 40 percent of new voters were Democrats, 37 percent Republicans and 23 percent independents.

However, in March, Republicans superseded Democrats in terms of party registration for the first time in years, and while some Democrats attempted to spin that total as a result of voters signing up to vote for and against Trump, the fact of the matter is that Trump easily won the CD 13 vote, so if there were voters registering as Republicans to vote against Trump, they didn’t appear in very large numbers in the primary in March.

Last fall, the normally amiable Jolly uncharacteristically crashed Crist’s announcement that he was running in CD 13, prompting this reporter to ask Jolly if he has enmity towards the former Republican that could result in an intensely negative campaign this fall?

Jolly said simply he felt he was more qualified than Crist to represent the district, and said that while his opinions about his new opponent have been extensively reported on, he doesn’t intend to reference it at all between now and November, a laudable goal that could be impossible to adhere to depending on the state of the race in October.

Jolly did say that he one asked Crist for a refund from a campaign contribution he made to the former governor when he switched parties (he said Crist ignored the request), and no longer votes early in the voting cycle after having committed to Crist early in his 2006 gubernatorial run against Democrat Jim Davis. But a constant theme throughout the nearly half-hour long press conference was that he wanted to “change the tone in Washington,” and clearly bashing his new opponent would hardly fit into his branding. “Hopefully, you won’t hear me utter another candidate’s name between now and November, you’ll only hear me talk about my record and what I intend to for the county.”

In a brief statement, Crist noted Jolly’s uninvited appearance to his campaign announcement last fall.

“Unlike what my new opponent did when I announced, I’m not going to start name calling like Donald Trump – everyone should do what’s in their heart,” Crist said. “Pinellas needs less Donald Trump and more civility to tackle issues like the rising cost of health care, gun violence, failing schools, and protecting our environment –  that’s why I’m running, for the people.”

While Crist was ready to turn the other cheek, it was another story with the national and Florida Democratic Party.

“David Jolly wanted any excuse to end his Senate campaign that was defined by lackluster support and pathetic attempts to scrub his lobbying career from his public biography,” said DSCC Communications Director Sadie Weiner. “He was ill-prepared to run a statewide race, let alone represent Florida in the U.S. Senate.  We wish the NRCC the best of luck with their former lobbyist candidate who they accused of lying after he brought a secret camera crew into their office.”

“Jolly’s lack of commitment and principle are exactly what Pinellas County residents would expect from a Washington lobbyist who is only interested in furthering his political career,” said  Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant. “Florida Democrats look forward to sending David Jolly back to K Street in November.”

Democrats are already attacking Jolly for his draft proposal this week that would tighten firearm restrictions for potential terrorists, while also requiring the individual who was denied the ability to purchase a gun be entitled to a due process hearing within 30 days before a federal judge. At that time the government must demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that the individual should be on the watch list and prohibit from purchasing a firearm.

Democratic protestors (who were not allowed into the hangar but stood holding signs at a gate outside) held signs called Jolly a hypocrite for opposing similar Democratic proposals to restrict terrorists or suspected terrorists from being able to purchase firearms. “The issue with the terror watch list is an individual never had due process, and that’s the fallibility of the simple proposal of ‘no-fly, no -buy.’ But we can fix that,” Jolly said.

A handful of Pinellas County Republicans were on the scene to show their support, such as Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos, who worked with Jolly on Congressman Bill Young’s staff. The Mayor said he wasn’t surprised to see Jolly fairing well in early polls. “He has reached out throughout the district  from day one, and he’s done a good job representing all of us.”

Palm Harbor state Representative Chris Sprowls said the community knows both candidates well. “They’re going to evaluate them, and I think that based on that, they’re going to elect David Jolly back to Congress.”

While Jolly says he won’t criticize Crist, that message apparently isn’t universal with his surrogates. “I think that Pinellas County voters will see the difference between the two,” said Clearwater state Representative Chris Latvala.  “One of them you have a statesman, the other one you have someone who will say and do and belong to every political party they think will advance their own political career.”

Both candidate are considered moderates, a byproduct of Pinellas County politics. Jolly emphasized the moderate nature of his brand of politics, a moderate stance that many felt would ultimately doom him a GOP senate primary race, though he has remained competitive in the polling to date.

“Listen, I bring some very conservative core convictions,” he said, “but I think I’ve demonstrated on areas like equality and non-discrimination and climate science to guns, that if we sit down together, I can advance my conservative convictions while giving voice to others that perhaps are on the other side of the spectrum, and we can reach a consensus solution that’s right for the American people.”

The scenario is now quite different for Crist than when he entered the contest last fall, with his biggest task being to put away then Democratic challenger Eric Lynn. It should be a fascinating race.

David Jolly drops Senate bid, will seek re-election to CD 13; Charlie Crist, Dems respond

 U.S. Rep. David Jolly has unfinished business.

After weeks of pressure from local officials, bolstered by rumors of Marco Rubio seeking re-election, Jolly is dropping his bid for the U.S. Senate, opting instead for a re-election bid in Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

“David Jolly’s passion is to serve the people of Pinellas,” former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker confirmed in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times. “He learned at the side of Congressman Bill Young, and he has effectively served all parts of our county.

“I strongly endorse his candidacy and his re-election.”

With the possibility of Rubio entering the race, the prospects for Jolly — a Harbor Bluffs Republican — in the crowded Senate GOP primary had worsened somewhat. The decision to run for re-election indicates his feeling that there is a better chance against former Gov. Charlie Crist, who is running as a Democrat for the Pinellas County-based seat.

“Unlike what my new opponent did when I announced,” Crist said in a statement.  “I’m not going to start name calling like [Republican presidential front-runner] Donald Trump – everyone should do what’s in their heart. Pinellas needs less Donald Trump and more civility to tackle issues like the rising cost of health care, gun violence, failing schools, and protecting our environment –  that’s why I’m running, for the people.”

As for Jolly’s Senate aspirations, the challenge for him and the other GOP Senate candidates in Florida was Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority leader who has openly backed Rubio entering the race.

McConnell, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other leaders, lobbied for Rubio to run for re-election.

According to Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida, McConnell’s move chilled many donors by casting doubts on the viability of the five Republicans already in the Senate race. June was expected to be a strong fundraising month for all the candidates.

Jolly entered the Senate race last year after Rubio, the incumbent, launched his bid for president. However, after exiting the race earlier this year, Rubio told reporters last week he would consider a return to the Senate in the wake of the tragedy in Orlando, which gave him the inspiration on how he could best serve the nation.

If Rubio decides to run, he must do it by June 24, the filing deadline to qualify for the ballot.

As for the remaining Republican field, both Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis also stated they would not run against Rubio if he seeks re-election.

Manatee County homebuilder Carlos Beruff and Orlando businessman Todd Wilcox — two outsider candidates who have officially filed to run — have maintained that they will continue their campaigns, despite Rubio.

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s Sadie Weiner blasted Jolly’s decision to run for his old House seat as the result of “lackluster support” for his “ill-prepared” Senate campaign.

“David Jolly wanted any excuse to end his Senate campaign that was defined by lackluster support and pathetic attempts to scrub his lobbying career from his public biography,” Weiner said in a statement. “He was ill-prepared to run a statewide race, let alone represent Florida in the U.S. Senate.  We wish the NRCC the best of luck with their former lobbyist candidate who they accused of lying after he brought a secret camera crew into their office.”

Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant argued that Jolly “abandoned” Pinellas County voters when he decided to run for the Senate, and only returned to the CD 13 race when he saw that no Republican could win statewide.

“One year after abandoning the job the people of Pinellas County elected him to do, David Jolly has changed his mind and is returning to run in the district he argued ‘no Republican can win,’” Tant said in a statement Friday. “Jolly’s lack of commitment and principle are exactly what Pinellas County residents would expect from a Washington lobbyist who is only interested in furthering his political career. Florida Democrats look forward to sending David Jolly back to K Street in November.”

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