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

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 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.”

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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