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Backroom Briefing: David Jolly Under Fire; Jeff Atwater Defends State's Honor

July 23, 2014 - 6:00pm

The LGBT community won a major victory last week when a Monroe County judge overturned the "Florida Marriage Protection Act" banning same-sex marriages.

But the battle over gay marriage in Florida is far from over, either in court or on the campaign trail.

Now, evangelicals are targeting U.S. Rep. David Jolly for flip-flopping on the issue.

Jolly, a Republican, won a special election to replace the late Congressman C.W. Bill Young this year, and is running virtually unopposed for the Pinellas County seat in November.

Jolly caught some of his conservative supporters by surprise this week when he publicly supported the Monroe County judge's decision.

Supporters of the Florida Family Policy Council -- whose chief, John Stemberger, led a 2008 effort to pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage -- issued an "open letter" to Jolly vilifying him for what they called a "complete reversal" on the issue.

"We are profoundly disappointed in this announcement and now we can only wonder what other issues you might change your views on. Please know that we consider your reversal on this critical issue to be an act of cowardice and a betrayal to the very persons that worked extremely hard to get you elected to office," the letter, signed by dozens of constituents, reads.

Wednesday night, Jolly issued a doubly long, 1,509-word defense saying he never changed his position and has always supported states' power to set their own rules regarding marriage. He also said states should allow same-sex and heterosexual marriage.

As a Christian, Jolly said he personally supports traditional marriage between a man and a woman.

"But as a matter of constitutional principle, I believe in a form of limited government that protects personal liberty, and therefore I believe all individuals, all couples should be allowed to determine the sanctity of their marriage by their own faith or their own beliefs of marriage," Jolly wrote.

State bans on gay marriage "compromise the doctrine of individual liberty that is at the very foundation of our Constitution," he added.

Stemberger accused Jolly of playing word games and put him on notice.

"He clearly told numerous supporters where he stood on the marriage issue and now he lacks the courage to stand up against the pressure and intimidation of gay rights activists. If he does not return to his original position he will have a serious opponent in two years. And he won't have the grassroots army that got him elected behind him," Stemberger said.


Florida's Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater is telling media in New York that the Empire State's "Start-Up NY" marketing campaign to coax businesses to new tax-free zones should prominently feature positive aspects of Florida.

Atwater began making the pitch because New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo apparently had the audacity to cast the net for new business into Florida; a state that has made poaching companies from other areas part of its economic-recovery blueprint.

"These advertisements portray an image of New York that simply cannot be supported by facts, particularly in comparison with Florida," Atwater wrote in a letter to Cuomo.

Atwater advised Cuomo that "perhaps you should consider" including in future ads information such as how New York's personal income tax is nearly 9 percent, while Florida has none.

Atwater continued his pitch while appearing Monday on FOX News, criticizing Cuomo's ads as selling "snake oil" for not "telling the rest of the story" about New York's taxes in comparison to Florida. Atwater also likened the tax-free zones in New York to a "quarantined area" into which new businesses are being "shoe-horned."

It should be noted that Florida offers an assortment of tax incentives to businesses that choose to create employment within designated enterprise zones.

The reply from Cuomo's office: For a CFO, he must be pretty bad at math if he doesnt understand that the zero in Start-Ups zero-tax zones means no state taxes for new businesses.


Here's something you probably won't see in the how-low-can-you-go governor's race.

Republican John Hugh Shannon, who is running in a heavily contested House race in Polk County, sent an email Wednesday blasting a political group called "Families for Lower Taxes." The reason? The group released an ad attacking Shannon's opponent, Republican Colleen Burton.

Shannon called on the group to stop running the attacks, saying "I am not OK with it, I condemn it, and am calling on it to stop -- now!" Shannon and Burton are seeking to replace term-limited Rep. Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, in District 40.

TWEET OF THE WEEK: "@JoshuaBlack2014 you're a Florida politician and you are claiming anybody ELSE is irrational? LOL." -- TV personality Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) to Florida state House candidate Joshua Black.

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