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David Jolly says it makes sense why he attacks Alan Grayson and not Patrick Murphy on the campaign trail

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It’s no secret that Republican David Jolly and Democrat Patrick Murphy are friendly colleagues serving in the Florida congressional delegation.

“I think we ap­proach Con­gress and gov­ern­ing the same way, there’s a nat­ur­al af­fin­ity there, “Jolly told the National Journal last month. “He is a dear friend of mine.”

“Dav­id and I are friends,” Murphy has affirmed. “It’s help­ful to have folks like Dav­id on the oth­er side to talk to.” Their friendship transcends the political divide in Washington, as the Jupiter-based representative has signed on as a co-sponsor to a number of Jolly proposed bills over the last year.

Will the two friends be able to muster up the the partisanship generally called on in something like a contested U.S. Senate race next year? That is one of a number of possible scenarios could play out, as the two congress members  compete for their party’s nomination for the Senate seat being vacated by Marco Rubio next year.

Public-opinion polls show that none of the six major candidates for both parties have that strong of name ID, making it anyone’s bet on who could be the nominees next year.

However, the Democratic Party establishment in Washington, led by the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, is firmly behind Murphy, believing the centrist-leaning Democrat has a better chance of winning the open seat next year than his most significant party opponent, Congressman Alan Grayson.

Yet Jolly rarely if ever mentions Murphy when he does interviews or gives speeches on the campaign trail. But he regularly criticizes Grayson.

That prompted Florida Politics to ask Jolly if he has some sort of non-aggression pact with Murphy?

“If you look at the other side of the aisle, the area of greatest disagreement is clearly with Alan Grayson,” Jolly said on Monday, laughing at the question. That disagreement revolves around Jolly’s advocacy for his “Freedom Card” legislation, which would remove regional and provider restrictions on where veterans can access care, allowing them to use federal benefits to access private care. Although it opens a door for the privatization of VA services, Jolly is insistent that’s not the intent, saying that nearly all the veterans he has spoken with want to keep the Department of Veterans Affairs vital and robust as is.

“Alan Grayson has chosen to attack me for trying to shut down the VA, which I have said I do not support,” Jolly says. “Alan Grayson is now suggesting he doesn’t trust veterans with true choice.”

In a recent fundraising email to supporters, Grayson wrote that “My GOP opponent David Jolly has a plan to gut the Veterans Administration, but he doesn’t want you to know it. And he sure doesn’t want me to tell you about it.” Grayson also characterizes Jolly’s bill as legislation “which privatizes the Veterans Administration’s healthcare system, forcing taxpayers to pay for healthcare outside that system.”

“Why would Alan Grayson come out against my proposal to give veterans a true choice of where they receive health care?” asks Jolly. “Unless he is taking the statist, progressive mentality of putting the bureacracy and the government before the veterans, and so I am calling him out on that,” he said earlier this week.

“I’m going to continue to hammer him on it,” Jolly says, adding that he won’t stop until Grayson comes around on his bill and/or distances himself from a comment that Hillary Clinton made last month on Rachel Maddow’s show, where she suggestedthat the VA scandal was slightly overblown (Since then Clinton has appeared to back away from that statement, and on Veterans Day last week unveiled a proposal that allows for the government to contract with the private sector for surgical, mental health and substance abuse services,, and for times when the VA is unable to offer timely care).

“In other words, Jolly and Murphy have agreed not criticize each other,” says Kevin Franck, a spokesman for Grayson’s senate campaign. “David Jolly has admitted that he has a ‘natural affinity’ for former Republican Patrick Murphy and that he and Murphy have the same approach to governing. While Rep. Grayson has spoken out about David Jolly’s dangerous plan to privatize the VA, Patrick Murphy has been silent.  I guess dismantling the VA is just another example of an issue on which Patrick Murphy and David Jolly agree.”

The Patrick Murphy campaign did not respond to our request for comment.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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