In the first prime-time debate against Charlie Crist in Florida’s 13th Congressional District race, David Jolly pulled out what he thought was a potent arrow in his quiver.
When the debate moderators allowed the candidates to ask a question of one another, Jolly spoke dramatically about how in 1995, Crist traveled to Alabama to inspect an actual chain gang. Crist’s tough anti-crime stance back at the beginning of his career in the state legislature had earned him the nickname,”Chain Gang Charlie.”
“You stood there, over three African-American prisoners in chains, on their knees, on the side of the road,” Jolly said. “Saying that it was a great sight. Saying we needed to bring it to Florida. And you did this — whether you know or not — on the eve of Juneteenth, the day the African-American community celebrates the end of slavery.”
How would Crist react?
After explaining that he supported chain gangs because of the high crime rate in the state (as it was nationally two decades ago), Crist turned the tables on Jolly, saying that the idea that his tough-on-crime stance had anything to do with race was simply “appalling.”
Issue defused? It was at the time, but Jolly brings it back in a new digital ad called, “No Mercy.”