Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

David Jolly strikes back at conservative critics

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Though there is no clear early favorite in the Republican race for U.S. Senate next year in Florida, Pinellas County U.S. Rep. David Jolly has broken through enough to top some recent polls.

Being based in the Tampa Bay area is also a plus going into next year’s primary, as it’s home to roughly a quarter of the state’s GOP voting bloc. And while his record is solidly conservative, he’s certainly no Tea Partier, and wouldn’t have been elected in last year’s special election in the moderate, swing-district if he had been.

His stance on some votes, as well as his support for same-sex marriage, have put him in the crosshairs of some conservative D.C. groups, which have blasted him as being insufficiently right-wing.

In a memo sent to members of his steering and finance committee last week, Jolly fired back on those groups such as the Club for Growth, writing that his early support has “threatened the special interest scorecard groups in Washington who make a living off dividing our party, off encouraging and ensuring obstructionism and dysfunction, and off misleading the American people for their own financial gain.”

“These groups claim to be conservative, but the policies they push are geared toward centralizing power in Washington, the only place where they have power,” he writes. “And their aim is to fundraise off division to pay their own salaries. This is what the Washington establishment does. It’s most unfortunate, and we as a nation, and as a party, deserve better.”

The Indian Shores resident follows up by mentioning his conservative stances on deficit spending, trade (which he derisively dubs “Obamatrade”), border security (the memo never even mentions the word “immigration”), life (and not abortion), foreign policy and fiscal responsibility.

 “I was the only Florida Republican who voted against the Ryan budget because the budget resolution did nothing to realistically achieve a balanced budget,” he writes, underlying the phrase to indicate that, in fact, he was a hardline outlier on voting against the GOP budget earlier this year (one of only 17 out of the entire House caucus to do so).
In June, Jolly opposed many of his fellow House Republicans who supported giving President Obama fast-track authority regarding the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement, something that he points to with pride in the memo. “On the biggest trade deal in world history, Republicans in Washington rolled over, looked the other way, and in June approved legislation granting the President expanded fast track authority to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” he writes.
Although a vote in the GOP-led Senate to defund Planned Parenthood went down to defeat this week when it did not get the required 60 votes, Jolly boasts in the memo about its House companion — legislation he sponsored directly that would do the same.
One of Jolly’s votes that the Conservative Review lambasted him on was his opposition to a religious freedom resolution overturning a D.C. City Council law.
“I read the D.C. bill – I studied the D.C. bill – and I concluded that the bill did three things,” Jolly writes. “It protects employees from fear of firing or termination based on private healthcare decisions made by the employee or their family; 2) It allows religious institutions an exemption from the law to permit a church or faith-based institution to require an employee’s adherence to their code of ethics; and, 3) It states in section 2b that nothing in the law may be construed to require an employer to provide abortion-related healthcare coverage as part of a company healthcare plan. Accordingly, I believe the D.C. law afforded employees protections for their own healthcare and religious decisions, while also protecting churches and faith- based institutions, and protecting employers from being required to provide healthcare coverage that conflicts with their religious beliefs regarding abortion services. So I voted against the congressional measure to invalidate the law.”
With Congress now out for a break until September, he’ll undoubtedly be telling this tale to groups throughout the state to fundraise in the contested GOP primary election scheduled for a little more than a year from now.
Jolly is running for the GOP Senate nomination against fellow U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and former Special Forces commander and CIA veteran Todd Wilcox.

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

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