Florida Contest Closing With Appeals to the Middle: Jolly vs. Sink

Photograph by Dirk Shadd/The Tampa Bay Times/AP Photo

Republican David Jolly, center, Libertarian Lucas Overby, center right, and Democrat Alex Sink, left, debate during a ‘Conversation with the Candidates’, on Feb. 3, 2014, in Seminole, Fla.

As David Jolly campaigned for the Republican nomination in a vacant Florida congressional district earlier this year, one of his television ads touted Jolly as “a conservative” in the mold of Republican Bill Young, who died in October after more than 40 years representing the politically competitive Tampa Bay area.

Jolly’s campaign has revived that ad in the final days before the March 11 special election, with one change.

The revised ad omits the word “conservative.”

“David Jolly, a conservative in the tradition of Bill Young” was how a narrator described Jolly in the original version of the ad, which ran 73 times from Dec. 17 through the Jan. 14 primary, according to data from New York-based Kantar Media’s CMAG, which tracks advertising. (Jolly’s YouTube page includes that version.)

“David Jolly for Congress. In the tradition of Bill Young,” the narrator says in the revised version, which first ran March 7 on ABC’s affiliate in Tampa, according to CMAG. Florida’s 13th District (map) includes Clearwater, Largo, Pinellas Park and most of St. Petersburg.

The two ads are otherwise identical. In both versions, Jolly promises to work for spending cuts, a balanced federal budget, protections for military veterans and the repeal of a 2010 health-care law he says is “a mess of broken promises.” Both versions include the same comments from former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker; Beverly Young, the late congressman’s widow; two military veterans; and Bob Barker, the former “The Price is Right” game-show host.

While the revision to the TV ad is very slight, it calls attention to how Jolly is seeking support from a broader electorate than the Republican voters who made him their nominee in January.

It also could be a reflection of how close the race may be in its final days. Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor from St. Petersburg running for governor again as a Democrat, predicts that the contest between Jolly and Democrat Alex Sink will be close — and that Sink will win. He said so Saturday night on the sidelines of the Gridiron Club dinner in Washington. Crist represented the area in the state Legislature.

Jolly, a former lobbyist and aide to Young, and Sink, Florida’s former chief financial officer, are seeking a seat in a district that’s about evenly divided between the two major parties. President Barack Obama won Florida’s 13th by about one percentage point in the 2012 election, according to data compiled by Political Capital.

More than 121,000 ballots have already been returned to the Pinellas County elections office, it said yesterday. The candidates and outside groups will spend more than $12.5 million on the race.

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