Florida is in the news again, for reasons other than the fact that both Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are all but certain to run for president.
Politico reported today that Florida Governor Rick Scott might not back a Florida candidate for president (fun fact: four candidates actually have Florida residencies, with Ben Carson and even Mike Huckabee joining Bush and Rubio in calling the Sunshine State home).
The other reason I’m so excited about Florida has to do with Congressman David Jolly. You’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with being on a military base. That will make more sense right about…now.
Just under a year ago, on March 11th, 2014, I was on an Israeli military base with my grade for Gadna (for more information than you could ever want on what Gadna is, read here, but keep in mind that it also allows non-Israelis to participate as well. My experiences there are worth a post of their own at a later date).
Our current seniors are currently enjoying all that Gadna has to offer, so they get a special shoutout for going through it as we speak.
By this point, you either read about Gadna or knew that it is, in essence, a week-long boot camp. As you would expect, there were plenty of amusing incidents in my grade with people really not enjoying themselves (and, less frequently, of people going mad with power).
While we were waiting to shoot M16s, my friend Gefen showed me a notification from Politico that David Jolly had beaten Alex Sink in the special election to fill the vacancy left by Congressman Bill Young’s death.
It might seem strange to think that I didn’t immediately know this, but keep in mind that for the entirety of the Israel trip, I was entirely reliant on wifi hotspots. As you would think, there was no internet that we could have used on a military base.
I remember telling anyone who would listen (which was basically no one) that this race would have ramifications down the road in the 2014 election.
I hadn’t actually expected Jolly to win, since Alex Sink had barely lost the 2010 governor’s race to Rick Scott and had statewide name recognition, so the fact that Jolly won…and was unopposed in November’s election led me to believe that we were going to have a banner year.
After winning races in Maryland, Illinois, and Massachusetts that most people would have never seen coming just two years ago, I think it’s safe to say that I was right.
What follows are the thoughts I wrote about subsequent developments in Florida’s 13th District that are still relevant because they show how important candidate quality is.
In fact, I’m almost positive that I wrote them at Hodayot, a youth village that I spent several weeks volunteering at later on in the Israel trip (again, those stories merit being told in a longer format than is possible in this post).
Looking back on it, I’m struck by how obvious most of this was to me months before the election. The only glaring error I made was predicting that Congressman Lee Terry would skate to reelection (in reality, he is one of only two Republican incumbents to lose to a Democrat in 2014, which further underscores the importance of finding good candidates).
Congressman Dave Jolly is a lucky man. His election was once considered one of the greatest toss-ups for the fall, but now, his race is called “the most botched House race of 2014.” This is far from great news for Democrats, who were scrambling for a narrative to sell after he beat Democratic nominee Alex Sink in a special election a couple months ago.
Democrats were pressuring Sink to run again in the fall, but after she decided against it, they were left looking for a candidate who could make the race competitive.
A few days ago things were still looking bright for Democrats, since they had cleared the field for veteran Ed Jany. Despite Jany’s terrific background, there were some logistical problems facing Democrats from the start, since he had recently switched his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat (Charlie Crist isn’t the only one, I guess). In fact, the switch was so recent that Florida law required him to run as an independent, a challenge in and of itself. Reporters also quickly noticed some glaring errors in his educational resume, since he basically claimed a degree from something that was nothing more than a diploma mill (Thom Tillis and Matt Bevin know all too well that these things get looked into).
Jany’s problems notwithstanding, Democrats were so excited about his candidacy that they forced other candidates out of the race, going so far as to tell local NAACP president Manuel Sykes that he would be a “persona non grata” if he continued with his plans to run for the seat.
That’s not looking like such a good decision on their parts now, given that Jany all of a sudden pulled the plug on his desire to run for the seat. This is even worse for Democrats since the filing deadline has passed, all but ensuring Congressman Jolly a first complete term.
Given that Jany actually was the FOURTH Democrat to look into running for the seat (for those keeping track, Sink, Sykes, and state Representative Dwight Dudley were all considered before him), it’s fairly obvious to me that there’s a reason that more well known candidates didn’t want to run on the Democratic side (that reason is probably the polls: one poll commissioned showed Jolly smashing Jany [the original post incorrectly said Jolly here as well, which of course makes no sense] by a 29 point margin).
Needless to say, Democrats like Sykes aren’t excited to get back into the fray after being discarded by their fellow Democrats, so this has evolved into a national embarrassment for the party.
This would be bad enough for their odds of retaking the House (currently pegged at 1%), but the fact is is that across the country, in some of the swingiest of swing districts, nationally recruited Democrats are giving up months before election day.
Iowa’s Third District, that will be vacant due to Congressman Tom Latham’s retirement, Michael Sherzan was touted by the DCCC as one of its most promising recruits, only to have him drop out a couple of months later.
Nebraska’s Second District once had the ability to be competitive (as I wrote about here), but after Pete Festersen, the President of the Omaha City Council, dropped out (in a move that “stun[ed]” Democrats), Congressman Lee Terry is now all but guaranteed another term in office.
Combined, these three districts are all ones that Democrats need to contest in November to have the slightest chance of netting any seats, let alone a majority.
Remember how Democrats have a 1% chance of retaking the House? Well, I’m no expert, but I think that’s being overly optimistic. For them, what began as a botched race in Florida’s 13th District featuring David Jolly actually exposed just how daunting the national environment is against them this year, even in seats that should nominally favor them in November.