Republicans keep House seat in Florida special election
March 11th, 2014
07:53 PM ET
8 years ago

Republicans keep House seat in Florida special election

(CNN) - Republican David Jolly won Tuesday's special election in Florida's 13th Congressional District.

He will fill out the term of his former boss, longtime Republican Rep. Bill Young, who died in October.

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Jolly defeated Democrat Alex Sink, who conceded the race more than an hour after the polls closed.

The outcome does not change anything for Democrats in their calculus for retaking the House in next November's midterms. They still need to pick up 17 seats.

Political handicappers consider that a tall order, considering the shrinking number of competitive congressional districts nationwide.

Jolly served as a former general counsel for Young and also worked as a lobbyist.

"Tonight brings an end to this election," a victorious Jolly told supporters. "Tomorrow provides the opportunity for us to embark together on a new journey of representation here in Pinellas County."

Sink, the former Florida Chief Financial Officer, narrowly lost the 2010 gubernatorial election to Rick Scott.

She conceded the contest more than an hour after the polls closed, expressing pride in her campaign and thanking volunteers and supporters.

"I have congratulated David Jolly and wish him the best success in representing the voices of Pinellas in Congress," she said.

Florida-13 is a swing district in a swing state. It covers most of Pinellas County between Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, including parts of St. Petersburg.

While Young captured 58% of the vote in his 2012 re-election, President Barack Obama narrowly carried the district in his 2008 and 2012 victories.

The district has one of highest concentration of senior voters in the nation.

While the candidates and local matters weighed heavily in the race, Obamacare was also a key issue in the election.

While a contest this far out from the midterms rarely offers a preview of what will actually happen in November, the election was seen by some pundits as a potential bellwether.

There was a massive infusion of outside ad money into the race to try to influence the outcome.

Dueling congressional campaign committees fired off reaction after the results came in with their versions of what Jolly's win means for the midterms.

The National Republican Congressional Committee said the results are referendum on the effects of the Democratic agenda and Obama's health care law, the Affordable Care Act, which Republicans are campaigning fiercely against.

"Tonight, one of Nancy Pelosi's most prized candidates was ultimately brought down because of her unwavering support for Obamacare, and that should be a loud warning for other Democrats running coast to coast," said NRCC chairman Greg Walden.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee congratulated Sink's campaign, highlighting her efforts in a historically Republican district and pushed back on the results as a bellwether for the midterm elections.

"Democrats will fight for FL-13 in the midterm when the electorate is far less heavily tilted toward Republicans. Despite those millions from Republican outside groups, they underperformed because the only message they offered voters – repealing the ACA – is out of touch and failed to bring them even close to their historically wide margins," said the group's chairman, Rep. Steve Israel.

CNN's Paul Steinhauser and Dana Davidsen contributed to this report.


Filed under: Alex Sink • Florida
soundoff (381 Responses)
  1. Rudy NYC

    Jolly hammered sink on Medicare Advantage cuts under "Obamacare". I wish I knew for certain what the response was, but it should have been pointed out that House Repubilcans plan to make almost the identical cuts under every version of the Ryan Plan that I 've heard about.

    March 12, 2014 08:38 am at 8:38 am |
  2. jinx9to88

    Whats sad is Jolly ran on repealing Obamacare but the smart people know there is no way he can do it. The dumb voters that voted for Jolly should not be able to vote. With Obama in office and Hilary coming in 2016 they will veto any bill to repeal Obamacare. Jolly offered nothing else. Undereducated older voters don't realize it and cant adjust to change.

    March 12, 2014 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  3. Dean

    Parsing Rep. Israel's lies:

    District FL-13 has been redrawn over the years, and in no way resembles the demographic mix as when Rep. Young held the seat.

    Democrat outside groups also pumped millions of dollars into Sink's campaign.

    Underperformed? Most political insiders, both Republican and Democrat, believed that Jolly did not run a strong campaign and that Sink was heavily favored.

    Repealing the ACA is not an 'out of touch' message. It was Jolly's main message and it resonated with FL-13 voters.

    Once again, Sink lost a race she should have won. November cannot come quick enough...neither can NOV 2016.

    March 12, 2014 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  4. Fair is Fair

    Joe P

    Koch Bros. buy another one....big surprise. "Large infusion of outside money" says it all. Thanks to our shameful SCOTUS for unleashing Citizen's United on us to insure our government can be bought and paid for.
    -------
    Uh huh... democrats outspent rebuplicans by a 4-1 margin on this race. Next.

    March 12, 2014 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  5. Gurgyl

    One here, one there–not everywhere. Called fluke. Bare margin. Not end of an era.

    March 12, 2014 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  6. Pete

    I'm from Florida and it wasn't be any means a much publized election..As usual the republicans with Rove and Koch financial backing probibly swamped the air waves,papers up state to keep that seat red..Remember its only a fill in spot because of the untimely vacancy of that seat so don't take it as a down right victory,its not....And also that area in Florida is a majority red haven as well with mostly retirees and it wasn't the landslide republicans wanted was it!!

    March 12, 2014 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  7. mecambridge

    For a district which was lately trending more democratic by all the pollsters comments, even though a popular republican had held it for years before is death, and for a man to win who had been a relative unknown and was outspent 4 to 1 in TV ads, shows that no matter how close the vote was, the push for how great Obamacare is didn't cut it and rang untrue enough for a loss. And no matter what the dem spin – a loss is a loss even by 1 vote.

    March 12, 2014 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  8. Lynda/Minnesota

    Oh. A Republican replaced a Republican? Who didn't see that coming a mile away?

    March 12, 2014 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  9. Fair is Fair

    Gurgyl

    One here, one there–not everywhere. Called fluke. Bare margin. Not end of an era.
    -------
    End of an error, maybe.

    March 12, 2014 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  10. Paul

    The phony libertarian is stealing votes from Democrats too.
    I think that backfired on Democrats.

    March 12, 2014 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  11. Fair is Fair

    Lynda/Minnesota

    Oh. A Republican replaced a Republican? Who didn't see that coming a mile away?
    -------–
    On the surface, very true. Peel back the layers, and what do you see? A district trending democratic... a district Sink won in the Governor's race... a district won by Obama twice... a race outspent by a 4-1 margin. With all due respect, Lynda, to not observe the obvious is somewhat myopic.

    March 12, 2014 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  12. Enough is Enough

    @Lynda/Minnesota – Guess you missed the fact that the losing Dem won the area when she ran for Governor or that the area voted for Obama in the last two elections......

    March 12, 2014 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  13. Lynda/Minnesota

    @ Fair is Fair: "Uh huh... democrats outspent rebuplicans by a 4-1 margin on this race. Next."

    There is no "next". Either Democrats get out and vote in mid-term elections or they will continue to lose. One wonders where the money went. Apparently not on GOTV.

    March 12, 2014 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  14. mecambridge

    For all those dems who can't stop themselves from mentioning those "evil Koch Brothers" buying another election, seems you better find out who the sugar daddy was for the democrats because she outspent the winner 4 to 1 in ads.

    March 12, 2014 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  15. Lynda/Minnesota

    @ Fair and @ Enough

    Myopic? I think not. Just stating the obvious: there is no story here. The Dems lost this one. Had she won, it would have been the bigger story. She didn't win.

    March 12, 2014 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  16. The Real Tom Paine

    There was no majority here, so I would not start talking about how Democrats are doomed in November. We had a series of special elections in NY a few years ago to replace local reps, at the height of the debate over the ACA. the Democrats won every one of those races, but still lost 63 seats in the House in 2010. This election was not a barometer of anything other than the fact that people voted the same way they have for House for the past several decades. People split their tickets for a reason, and I bet if you were to ask them if they like Rick Scott, or if they wish Romney had won, most would say no. The fact that Jolly did not win an outright majority should be troubling for the GOP, since they clearly are not winning the argument on the ACA with seniors. Running on a plan of " Obamacare sucks" without offering a real, substantive plan that does not dump people out of the insurance pool will not fly.

    March 12, 2014 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  17. Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair

    Given, this seat has been held by a Republican for many years.

    Also given:

    – Obama won this district in the past 2 presidential elections
    – Alex Sink won this district in her gubenetorial run
    – Jolly won this race with a major theme of discrediting Obamacare
    – Alex Sink lost this race with a major theme of defending Obamacare

    Any questions?
    ----------------------
    Yeah. What's your point? A district that has voted for a Republican for decades votes for another Republican, one who worked for the predecessor and promised to be the same guy. The Democrat had a major uphill battle to win.

    I think the Medicare Advantage ads that highlighted the planned cuts to the program could have likely played a large role.

    March 12, 2014 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  18. Lynda/Minnesota

    Are we so divided that when someone from "the other side" agrees with the other side it continues to be an argument? Personally I never thought she'd pull it off. She's lost one major prior election already. Close votes, yes. Nonetheless she's now lost both her bids.

    Come what may, we'll do this all over again in FL13 in November.

    March 12, 2014 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  19. Fair is Fair

    Lynda/Minnesota

    @ Fair and @ Enough

    Myopic? I think not. Just stating the obvious: there is no story here. The Dems lost this one. Had she won, it would have been the bigger story. She didn't win.
    ------–
    Oh good Lord, Lynda. You're saying that Jolly won because he's a Republican who won a seat that was held by Republicans? My God... how do you explain the Dems takeover of the house in '06, their takeover of the senate in '08, and their loss of the house in '10? Turnover occurs for a reason. Please.

    March 12, 2014 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  20. Fair is Fair

    Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair

    Given, this seat has been held by a Republican for many years.

    Also given:

    – Obama won this district in the past 2 presidential elections
    – Alex Sink won this district in her gubenetorial run
    – Jolly won this race with a major theme of discrediting Obamacare
    – Alex Sink lost this race with a major theme of defending Obamacare

    Any questions?
    --------
    Yeah. What's your point? A district that has voted for a Republican for decades votes for another Republican, one who worked for the predecessor and promised to be the same guy. The Democrat had a major uphill battle to win.

    I think the Medicare Advantage ads that highlighted the planned cuts to the program could have likely played a large role.
    --------
    My "point" was clearly articulated in my post. What you "think" is irrelevant.

    March 12, 2014 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  21. Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair wrote:

    On the surface, very true. Peel back the layers, and what do you see? A district trending democratic... a district Sink won in the Governor's race... a district won by Obama twice... a race outspent by a 4-1 margin. With all due respect, Lynda, to not observe the obvious is somewhat myopic.
    ---------------------------
    Did you know that Sink was outspent by a 4-1 margin by outside money? I think you do. Overall, roughly equal amounts money was spent on ads for each candidate.

    March 12, 2014 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  22. ghostwriter

    I mean, let's keep it real.....the republican won....Nice....Is this a sign of things to come? Depends. The same was said last year when the Cooch lost the governorship in VA. He ran on a repeal Obamacare theme. Didn't work out for him. Didn't work out for Romney. Or the bunch of republicans that lost in 2012.

    But hey....enjoy the victory lap. Let's see how things shake out down the road.

    March 12, 2014 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  23. king

    why does the dems keep committing suicide with obamacare. hey give the people what they want, abandoned obamacare and make the repubs feel good about going back to the status quo of bankruptcy, death, and premiums hikes at 15 to 20 percent yearly. DEMS STOP THE MADNESS. give the people what they want and ditch obamacare. the repubs have convinced them that, not standing on your own 2 feet and helping with the over whelming yearly premium hikes and taking advantage of the american people is the way to go.STOP FOR CRYING OUT LOUD. you will lose alot of seats this year so why even bother to fight for the people who doesn't want help because the repubs told them that help is bad for them. STOP OBAMACARE, fire all the direct and indirect jobs that this massive law has created.

    March 12, 2014 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  24. Fair is Fair

    The Real Tom Paine

    There was no majority here, so I would not start talking about how Democrats are doomed in November. We had a series of special elections in NY a few years ago to replace local reps, at the height of the debate over the ACA. the Democrats won every one of those races, but still lost 63 seats in the House in 2010.
    -------
    I'm not saying Democrats are "doomed" in November... but to compare a statically clear blue state like NY with a dynamic purple state like FL is disingenuious.

    March 12, 2014 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  25. ghostwriter

    Fair, shoot the fair one. This happens to be one of those situations where if you punch say......Justin Bieber...you'd be famous....but if he punches you, he'd be a loser. Not that cut and dried, but still.

    If the Miami Heat beats the Toronto Raptors, it's no big deal. If the Raptors beat the Heat, it's a story.

    March 12, 2014 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
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