Tags: jolly | peters | sink | florida

GOP Primary Battle to Replace Young Taking Toll on Party

By Melanie Batley   |   Monday, 13 Jan 2014 01:21 PM

The special election primary in Florida Tuesday to fill the 13th District seat of late Republican Rep. Bill Young will be the culmination of a bruising race that has divided the party and left Democrat Alex Sink as the frontrunner headed into the general election on March 11.

"You have a superior candidate with Alex Sink, and she is raising a lot of money, she is getting a lot of support. And you have two subpar candidates in [state Rep. Kathleen] Peters and [David] Jolly," Mike Fasano, a former Republican state senator, told Politico. "The candidates that should have run did not run, so we're stuck with Peters and Jolly."

Tom Slade, a lobbyist and former Florida Republican Party chairman, agreed, telling Politico, "Alex Sink is going to be hard to beat. She is so well-known . . . It's not going to be an easy race for Republicans to win. I hope I'm wrong."

Democrat Sink is running unopposed and polls indicate she is likely to face off against Jolly, a Washington lobbyist who at the moment is running ahead of Peters in the Republican primary. But Politico, citing numerous sources, reports that Jolly's profession could leave him vulnerable to being painted as a Washington insider.

Jolly was handpicked as Young's successor. Peters, however, has managed to pick up a number of high level endorsements even though her campaign has fizzled somewhat, according to recent polling.

Despite Sink's popularity, Democrats are still hoping that the GOP primary battle will have depleted Republican coffers and split support to the point that party will have much less influence in the general election.

Sink, who was her party's 2010 nominee for governor, will emerge with more than $1 million on hand, according to Politico, and is expected to attract donations from major national Democratic organizations.

Still, Democrats worry about the impact that negative campaigning from groups poised to rush in to help Jolly could have as Election Day approaches.

"National Republicans and outside groups aren't hesitating to take a page from Rick Scott's false playbook against Alex Sink and are poised to spend millions of dollars spreading lies against her," Emily Bittner, a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokeswoman, told Politico.

If he wins the primary, Jolly is also hoping to capitalize on problems the Democrats are expected to face in this year's regular congressional elections dealing with Obamacare and other issues.

"Listen, we knew we were going to be outspent. No question," Jolly told Politico. "But we're going to win this race on the issues. I promise you, in the coming weeks, I will close the gap with Alex Sink."

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