Republican David Jolly won a hotly contested special congressional election in Florida on Tuesday night, earning the right to succeed the late Rep. Bill Young in Congress. Jolly capitalized on opposition to the president’s health care law to defeat the Democratic nominee, Alex Sink.
Jolly captured over 48 percent of the vote and defeated Sink, who narrowly lost the Florida governor’s race in 2010, by almost 2 percentage points in Florida’s 13th District. Young represented the Pinellas County district for over 40 years before his death in October. Libertarian Lucas Overby ran a distant third, with just under 5 percent of the vote.
“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,” NRCC chairman Greg Walden said in a statement.
Jolly prevailed despite major demographic changes over Young’s four-decade tenure that opened a door for a Democratic victory. This is the second special election in 2014 where Democrats have been unable to assert a demographic advantage among actual voters in a nonpresidential election year. President Obama carried the 13th District in 2008 and 2012, and Sink also won the district during her run for governor in 2010. But translating demography into votes is tricky business, as California Democrats noticed during San Diego’s mayoral race earlier this year, which the Republican candidate won.
Jolly, who was a lobbyist and before that an aide to Young, overcame a significant financial disadvantage to defeat Sink, who was well-known from her previous statewide runs. Sink outspent Jolly about 4-to-1 on the airwaves, according to NBC News, but Republican outside groups including the National Republican Congressional Committee, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Action Network, and American Crossroads helped close the financial gap.
In a post-election statement, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Steve Israel attributed Sink’s loss to outside Republican money.
“Despite those millions from Republican outside groups, they underperformed because the only message they offered voters — repealing the [Affordable Care Act] — is out of touch and failed to bring them even close to their historically wide margins,” Israel said.