The special election in Florida’s 13th District to replace the late Republican Rep. Bill Young has been heralded as a bellwether for the mood of the country leading up to the November elections: how voters feel about Obama, about the president, about the direction of the country.
But for Republican candidate David Jolly, the election comes down to one simple thing: his opponent, Democrat Alex Sink, is “wrong on the issues.”
“They’re wrong on Obamacare, they’re wrong on the view of government, they’re wrong on taxes, they’re wrong on regulations for small businesses,” Jolly told The Daily Caller in an interview Wednesday.
“We win this race on the issues, and they know it,” he said.
Jolly is a former Young aide turned lobbyist. His opponent, Alex Sink, is the former Chief Financial Officer of Florida, who in 2010 lost to now-Gov. Rick Scott in by a single percentage point. Sink and Jolly will face off in a March 11 special election.
Speaking about the race, Jolly paints a picture contrasting a candidate who sees this as a local race to represent Pinellas County, and a candidate who is more focused on national interests.
“For me, this is a local race; for her it’s a national race,” he said. “She moved in here at the behest of Nancy Pelosi and the Washington Democrats … ultimately this is about whether somebody from our district represents our district or whether somebody from out of town represents the interests of Washington, D.C.”
Jolly has his own ties with Washington, having spent part of the past 20 years working as an aide to Young, and then as a lobbyist.
That career choice has provided Jolly’s opponents with an easy attack line. But Jolly maintains that even if he spent some time in Washington, D.C., he was advocating on behalf of Pinellas County, which makes up the 13th District. And, he points out, at least he is from and has lived in the district for some time – unlike Sink, who moved there shortly before announcing her congressional bid.
“My work for 20 years has been on behalf of this county,” Jolly said, citing his efforts to help a local business to send technology to Iraq that could detect roadside bombs, and working on “medical research initiatives to promote wound healing for amputees and wounded warriors.”
He also points to work he did with Mark Lunsford, a Florida man whose nine-year old daughter was murdered by a sex predator in 2005.
“He asked for my help working to secure funding for the U.S. Marshal Service to go after sex predators,” Jolly said. “We did that and did it successfully.”
“I’d like to see Alex Sink look Mark Lunsford in the eye and tell him his work a lobbyist was somehow a bad thing,” he said.
Sink maintains the upper hand in fundraising – something Jolly acknowledges. Outside groups are throwing money at the race as well, helping Sink, but also helping Jolly. The pro-Republican American Crossroads has spent over $100,000 on the race in the past week, and the National Republican Congressional Committee and YG Network have also thrown their weight around, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission. While Jolly does not seem to be complaining, he refers to ads from the groups on both sides as “noise.”
“I think the thirty second attack ads sometimes dilute the truth,” Jolly said, “and the voters really deserve to know where we stand on the issues.”
“We just have to overcome the noise of the TV commercials,” he adds later.
The ads from outside groups, he said, are allowing his opponent to avoid engaging with local issues.
“The amount of money in this race frankly has allowed my opponent to duck public appearances with me — to avoid candidate forums, to avoid debates. You know, we’ve accepted, I think at one point about 20 candidate forums or debates within the community; she only accepted three and those with very stringent rules. And I think that’s because she can rely on the outside money; she can rely on all of the television ads,” Jolly said.
“And that’s unfortunate,” he added. “The voters deserve better.”
Sink might have good reason to want to avoid debates: in her gubernatorial race against Scott, she had a major flub during one when she looked at notes on her cell phone, violating the rules. Recently, Politico reported that she turned down a local debate that NBC’s Chuck Todd had offered to moderate.
Jolly said that by avoiding debates, Sink was avoiding having to defend her positions, specifically her support for Obamacare.
“They’re not protecting her from gaffes,” he scoffed. “They’re protecting her from where she stands on the issues and letting voters know about where she stands on the issues because she’ll lose the race if people know about that.”
Jolly describes himself as Sink’s opposite on the issues: “I believe in less government, less taxes; she believes in more government, more taxes. She believes it’s ok for government to make decisions for us; I believe in empowering families and individuals.”
In particular, Jolly excoriates Sink for comments she made last week about a Congressional Budget Office Report that found, among other things, that one outcome of the new healthcare law would be many employees getting their hours cut, adding up to the equivalent of 2.5 million full time workers losing their jobs. Sink said the CBO report suggested an “exciting prospect” that Americans would have more freedom to find a job they loved, rather than keeping a job to ensure they had health insurance.
Jolly insists that the nature of the race is local, but when it comes to that comment, he would be thrilled to have it go national.
“She articulated the Democrats’ message and platform message perfectly when she said it was an ‘exciting prospect.’ I think that, in many ways, defines the national debate between the two parties right now, and as far as I’m concerned I wish the whole country could hear that message from the Democrats,” he said. “Because I believe we win this race, if so.”