Washington and Florida Democrats took the unusual step of endorsing an independent candidate for Florida's 13th Congressional District at the last minute on the filing deadline day. Now they have egg on their faces after independent Ed Jany, a registered Democrat, surprisingly dropped out of the race Tuesday, again draining Democratic hopes of challenging GOP Rep. David Jolly in a Tampa-area swing seat.
Just two months ago, Democrats may have been slightly favored to capture the seat held for decades by the late Rep. Bill Young, who died late last year. But despite fielding former gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink, a fundraising dynamo who came into the race with high name recognition and benefited from millions of dollars in outside group spending, the party suffered a narrow defeat in the March special election against Republican David Jolly.
It's only gotten worse from there. Sink declined to run again in the fall despite a concerted recruitment effort, leaving the party to turn to Jany, a former Republican who had to run as an independent because, under Florida law, he hadn't been registered as a Democrat long enough. In an effort to help Jany, party leaders pressured local NAACP chapter President Manuel Sykes, a Democrat, to drop out of the race, leaving no one on the party line.
Now Democrats don't have Jany either, and those they pushed out the way on his behalf don't sound eager to jump back into the race.
Jany's departure from the contest leaves Democrats with few options in a district that now looks increasingly secure for the GOP. Sykes told National Journal he is unlikely to get back in the race because of how the Pinellas County Democratic Party treated him when asking him to drop out. County Party Chairman Mark Hanisee, he said, left him a voicemail saying he would be "persona non grata" if he stayed in the race.
"I don't want to get mixed up with party leadership," Sykes said. "Even if they smile at me, I know it's not sincere. I don't feel comfortable."
Democrats have "a snowball's chance" of winning the seat now, Sykes added. "It's an adventure. It's really a laughable situation."
This article appears in the May 13, 2014 edition of NJ Daily.
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