Campaign Crawlers

A Jolly Time for St. Petersburg Republicans

Florida CD 13 a walk in November?

By 5.15.14

Creative Commons/Aaron Kelly
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If Nancy Pelosi becomes the new Speaker of the House after November — don’t put the mortgage money on it — it won’t be St. Petersburg’s fault.

Almost certainly Republicans won’t have to worry about retaining Florida’s District 13 seat in the U.S. House this November. The filing deadline for the race has passed, and the Democrats have no candidate.

The March special election to fill the remainder of long-time Republican Bill Young’s term -- Young died in October -- was major political news nationally because it was the only game going. And what’s a political reporter without a race to report on?

Republican David Jolly beat Democrat Alex Sink by just shy of two points in the special, an election that attracted an almost incomprehensible amount of outside money, most of which was spent on almost incomprehensible TV ads. The expected rematch in November for a full term was supposed to be page-one stuff also, but the reluctant and uninspiring candidate Sink declined to run again. She lost a race for governor in 2010 to Rick Scott, a man with even less personality than she has. And she lost in March to a relatively unknown Jolly. This apparently was enough political fun for Alex, who bowed out for “personal reasons.”

Democrats have made great strides in registration in Pinellas County (St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Largo, et al.), where all of CD13 is located. They trail Republicans in Pinellas — once one of the state’s Republican strongholds — by just less than two points, the margin of Jolly’s victory in the special. But their candidate bench in this increasingly purple district is weak. Very weak. They even had to import Sink from neighboring Hillsborough County (Tampa).

At first a preacher and president of the St. Petersburg chapter of the NAACP with no political experience, the Rev. Manuel Sykes, said he would seek the Democratic nomination in the November rematch. But the reverend carries some political baggage, including an out-of-wedlock child who came along a few years back. Mark Hanisee, chairman of the Pinellas County Democratic Party, momentarily forgetting how sensitive his party is to African Americans, told the preacher to back off, that if he ran he would be “persona non grata” with the party. Sykes dropped out of the race, and probably took Hanisee off of his Christmas card list at the same time.

After the Pinellas chapter of the party of King and Kennedy had put Rev. Sykes in his place, several other high-profile Democrats asked to be counted out of the race. Democratic head-hunters finally managed to find a retired police officer and Marine reserve colonel, a resident of Tampa, to carry the Democratic flag in St. Petersburg in November. But he would have to do this without a D after his name on the November ballot. This is because up until last fall Eduardo Jany had been a Republican. And thanks to the so-called “Charlie Crist law,” adopted by the Florida Legislature in an attempt to keep track of who the mercurial Crist is affiliated with at any given time, a candidate in Florida cannot carry the designation of a political party in an election until he has been a member of that party for a year.

Well, there you have it. Jany was yet another out-of-towner and he couldn’t call himself a Democrat on Election Day. But at least he had a great résumé. A bit too great perhaps. Just days after the Tampa Bay Times wrote a piece pointing out that Jany had not actually graduated from the University of Minnesota as his résumé claimed, and that he claimed another degree from an institution that people who keep up with such things say is a diploma mill, Jany announced that running for Congress would interfere with his day job and dropped out of the race. And then there were none, at least for the Democrats.

There will still be token opposition to Jolly in November. Libertarian Lyle Overby, who ran in the special and racked up five percent of the vote, has filed to run. Young Overby is bright, articulate, well-informed, civil, and measured in his presentation. He’s not prone to such popular Libertarian phantasms as declaring stop signs immoral. But even attractive Libertarian candidates like Overby have shown time and time again their voter appeal tops out in the low-to-mid single-digits.

The other fellow who has filed gives every evidence of being from a galaxy far away. Michael S. Levinson has run for several political offices in his native New York and in his adopted Florida. He hasn’t won any, which will come as no surprise to anyone who has visited his official campaign website. I’d summarize what I see on the site if I could, but I can’t. Let me just give you samples from it, and allow you to come to your own conclusions.

“Michael Levinson 4 Congress Then World Peacemaker… I am the poet inspired in the ocean wilderness… 40 days and 40 nights…given a work of prophetic art…The Book ov Lev It a Kiss…World Peace is going to take hold on our good ship Mother Earth beginning with a sing-you-learn peaceful whirled wide TV night!... Vote Lev! We are one TV Show away from World Peace.” 

It goes on in this wise for quite a bit, but none of it is any more coherent than what I’ve quoted above. Either our Michael is just having a lark or he can’t find his medications. And it’s hard to see how this approach attracts voters who are taking theirs. I hope he has a good time, which seems to be the purpose of all this.

So, after all the nonsense clears, it appears to be Jolly in Congress for at least the next two years. While Pinellas conservatives are getting used to the idea that Jolly will be representing them for a while, they aren’t sure yet how much he is one of them. Jolly has said the right thing about taxes — in fact he has a plan of unknown plausibility to limit the total take of federal, state, and local taxes to 50 percent of a person’s income — and has said Obamacare has to go. But he also takes the climate change hustle seriously, though he hasn’t said what should be done about the planet’s unseemly temperature. And in a move that looks more like political theater than serious policy making, Jolly says he will hold a “new ideas” conference in Pinellas, probably in September, to look for ideas about economic development, national defense, campaign finance, etc.

No word yet on any plans to hold a conference on ways to re-institute some very fine old ideas, like limited government, free enterprise, personal freedom, and a strong defense of our military, security, and economic interests. And from Charlie Crist, who said he had to leave the Republican Party because of the terrible way members of that party treat African Americans, no word yet on the shabby way Pinellas Democrats treated Rev. Sykes.

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About the Author

Larry Thornberry is a writer in Tampa.