PolitiFact rates DNC claims of being outspent in CD 13 “Mostly False”

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Immediately after the votes were counted, so began the Democratic narrative rationalizing Alex Sink’s defeat in this week’s special election in the Florida 13th Congressional District.

Republican David Jolly defeated Sink March 11 in the contentious race to replace the former U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young.

Hours after Sink’s loss, reports Amy Sherman in the Miami Herald, the Democratic National Committee issued an email blast from CEO Amy Dacey, which deemed the outcome “really scary.”

“Republican super PACs and outside groups rode to the rescue of a straight-up corporate lobbyist (Jolly) — spending $5 million to tear down his Democratic opponent,” she said.

Along with a plea to “chip in $3 or more,” Dacey offered her opinion of the loss:

“In a district that Republicans have held for almost six decades, we nearly pulled off an incredible upset thanks to grassroots support from Democrats like you — but we fell short for one reason,” she said.

“We got outspent in a Republican district. And call me old fashioned, but I think people, and not special interests, should decide elections.”

But is that actually the case?

Reporters at PolitiFact wondered the same thing —  that is if the DNC was accurate when they say Democrats “got outspent in a Republican district.”

After some number crunching, the editors at PolitiFact released a few revelations on the DNC claims.

Candidates raise and spend part of the money in a campaign, but there are also outside groups, which vary from state and national parties to labor unions to the National Rifle Association.

In any given race, to understand accurately the waves of money moving around, everything must be included – adding the money to promote a candidate as well as the funds to attack their opponent.

Combining all factors (both for Sink, against Jolly cash-on-hand, and vice versa), the pro-Sink team comes out with a slight gain at the disclosure cutoff date of February 19, with about $6,293,406 compared to Jolly’s $6,110,790. That includes both candidate and outside spending.

Jolly spent more before the cutoff, but large cash-on-hand numbers for Sink (more than $971K) levels the playing field and actually gives the Democrat a slight advantage.

Sink’s slightly better financial position than Jolly undermines the DNC’s claim, write the reporters at PolitiFact.

As for CD 13 being a “Republican district,” that is also doubtful.

Although there is a slight registration advantage to the GOP (170,402 Republicans, 159,022 Democrats and 111,114 with no party affiliation), voters have not voted in lock step with their parties. Obama did win Pinellas County by about 4 percent in 2008 and 1.4 percent in 2012, and Sink won the region in her 2010 gubernatorial bid.

Most political handicappers — including the non-partisan Cook Political and  Rothenberg Political Reports — put the CD 13 at +2 Republican, meaning that in the past, Pinellas County voted on the average 2 percent more than the national average.

Those numbers are certainly not overwhelmingly in the GOP camp, and more accurately signs of a truly swing district.

Both DNC claims might have a bit of truth, but upon a deeper dig, PolitiFact gave the two claims a “Mostly False” rating.


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.