Primary day in crucial House contest
January 14th, 2014
07:25 AM ET
9 years ago

Primary day in crucial House contest

(CNN) - Republican voters in a swing district in a purple state head to the polls Tuesday, to choose their party's nominee for a special election to fill a vacant House seat their party's held for decades.

Tuesday's GOP primary in Florida's 13th congressional district will set the stage for a March special election that some political pundits are billing as barometer for November's midterm elections.

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The winner of the special election will fill the remainder of the term of Republican Rep. Bill Young of Florida, who died in October. Young, who was first elected to Congress in 1970, was the longest serving Republican in the House

The two major Republican candidates are David Jolly, who served as a former general counsel for Young and also worked as a lobbyist, and freshman state Rep. Kathleen Peters. Retired Marine Corps Brigadier General Mark Bircher is also on the ballot. The winner will face off in March against Alex Sink, the former chief financial officer of Florida and the 2010 Democratic gubernatorial nominee. Sink is the Democratic party's consensus candidate.

The district covers most of Pinellas County and parts of St. Petersburg and it's up for grabs: While Young captured 58% of the vote in his 2012 re-election, President Barack Obama narrowly carried the district. Obama also won it 2008, grabbing 51% support.

"It's rare in politics that anything other than a presidential contest is viewed as a 'must win' – but the special election in Florida's 13th District falls into that category for Democrats," writes Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report, and a leading political handicapper. "Since most nonpartisan handicappers and analysts have for years expected this seat to go Democratic when it became open, a Republican victory in March would likely say something about the national political environment and the inclination of district voters to send a message of dissatisfaction about the president. And that possibility should worry the White House."

Another top non-partisan political handicapper, the Cook Political Report, agrees.

"House Democrats badly need to prove they can win an evenly split district like FL-13  in order to reclaim any momentum heading into the spring. But, even with a well-funded, well-known nominee potentially running against a former lobbyist, there is no guarantee they will prevail at a time when Obama's approval ratings are mired in the low 40 percent range," writes David Wasserman, the Cook Report's House editor.

Primary battle

While Jolly's lobbying career in the nation's capital could hurt him, he can tap into his large political rolodex, as he pledges to carry on his the legacy of his former boss. He's led Peters in fundraising and went up on TV with ads touting endorsement's from St. Petersburg's mayor and Bob Barker, the former longtime host of the "Price is Right."

Young's family is even split on the race: the late congressman's second wife has endorsed Jolly while his son is backing Peters.

"I think you have to regard Jolly as the frontrunner in the primary. He's the candidate who raised the most money and was able to run the most television ads in a very condensed time frame. But the primary is just the beginning. The real fight will be the March general election," say Rothenberg deputy editor Nathan Gonzales.

While the Republican candidates have fought each other, Sink has built up a formidable war chest. And she'll need it, as well as her strong name recognition, as the electorate in the March special election may be more favorable to the Republicans than the Democrats.

Filed under: 2014 • Bill Young • Florida
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Tony in Maine

    Why would any rational person, not a millionaire, vote for any Republican for any office?

    January 14, 2014 07:32 am at 7:32 am |
  2. Tampa Tim

    Go Alex. Kick some GOP butt. Think about what could have been if we elected her governor instead of the Medicaid scammer and job destroyer, Rick Scott.

    January 14, 2014 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
  3. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    Good luck Mr. Sink.

    January 14, 2014 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  4. Malory Archer

    The Tampa Bay Times ran an epilogue on this guy recently. What a disgusting piece of work he was! His widow is an unstable, foul mouth homewrecker, and the wife of the guy she's backing better watch her back or it's just a matter of time before the widow is trash talking her to the press after stealing her man (at least she's too old to get knocked up this time!). Unfortunately, nobody would speak of the congressman's abhorrent behavior while he was alive and he was allowed to remain in Congress for 30 years after he should have been run out of D.C. on a rail – AND he was a vocal proponent of the Clinton impeachment. RW hypocrisy at its finest.

    January 14, 2014 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  5. Richard in Houston

    Why do people always say this a referendum on another person other than the race at hand. Its not. Its about that race only. If people are not voting for the people at the race on hand then they should not vote.

    January 14, 2014 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  6. Name jk. Sfl. GOP CRUZ lee&rubio 24billion dallar LOSS of your tax money conservatives,the garbage of America.

    How can anybody be favorable to the do nothing incompetent republicans who have done nothing for over five years and lost 24 billion dallars of our money in 16 days and got nothing for it ???????

    January 14, 2014 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  7. tom l

    "AND he was a vocal proponent of the Clinton impeachment. RW hypocrisy at its finest."


    Do you even know why Bill Clinton was impeached?

    January 14, 2014 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  8. rs

    tom l

    "AND he was a vocal proponent of the Clinton impeachment. RW hypocrisy at its finest."


    Do you even know why Bill Clinton was impeached?
    I always figured it was because he had the nerve to have an affair at the same time as Mr. Gingrich- the hypocrit who brought the charges. In all seriousness- it didn't matter. The House GOP promised an impeachment well before Ms. Lewinsky ever hit the scene. Mr. Clinton just gave them the excuse. This is why today's GOP just seem so familiar.

    January 14, 2014 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  9. Malory Archer

    January 14, 2014 08:54 am at 8:54 am |

    tom l

    "AND he was a vocal proponent of the Clinton impeachment. RW hypocrisy at its finest."


    Do you even know why Bill Clinton was impeached?


    Do you have ANY idea what bill young DID?

    January 14, 2014 09:55 am at 9:55 am |