Florida's Special Election Darling Sinks to Top With Out-of-District Cash
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In a tossup district in a tossup state, Democratic darling Alex Sink has a lot going her way: national media attention, in-state name recognition and a fat pile of cash.
David Jolly, her newly crowned GOP opponent, has none of the above.
But it’s too soon to project Sink the winner of the March 11 special election to fill the late Bill Young‘s Pinellas County congressional seat -- a prize Young held for 43 years.
Despite her huge cash advantage, a bud of uncertainty is threatening to take root regarding the odds-on favorite.
Is Sink’s priority to represent CD-13, or is she the stand-in candidate for the Democratic Party‘s national ambitions?
It’s a fair question, critics say. Sink didn’t live in the district until after she decided to run. To establish residency, she recently began renting a condo in Pinellas, reported the Tampa Bay Times.
A financial disclosure reveals Sink’s campaign pulled in a whopping $1.1 million in a two-month period ending Dec. 25, 2013. Of that total, 83 percent came from outside Pinellas County, and much of that from outside Florida.
Jolly, a longtime member of Young’s inner circle, managed about a third of Sink’s cash intake while spending most of it. Sink had relatively few expenses, her largest being credit card processing fees for donations made through her website, Sink for Congress. But even the website was designed by an out-of-state firm.
“She’s been recruited by folks outside of the district,” Michael Guju, chairman of the Pinellas Republican Party, told Watchdog.org.
Guju said Sink decided to run after being approached by Washington, D.C., Democrats willing to spend big money to win the special election.
Democrats need 17 seats to flip the U.S. House and, if the Senate holds, solidify power not seen since President Obama‘s first two years in office.
Watchdog.org couldn’t confirm Guju’s claim, but a Federal Election Commission filing shows significant contributions were made to Sink’s campaign by political action committees with ties to prominent U.S. House Democrats.
PACs tied to Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, Kirsten Gillibrand, Jim Clyburn, Debbie Wasserman Shultz, Alcee Hastings, Lois Frankel and Ted Deutch -- all progressive U.S. House members -- gave significant sums to Sink’s campaign.
About 30 percent of Sink’s overall contributions came from PACs, many of which have decidedly progressive agendas -- a political leaning at odds with Sink’s moderate, fiscally conservative blue-dog reputation.
Ameripac: The Fund for a Greater America, founded by the second most powerful U.S. House Democrat, Hoyer of Maryland, gave $20,000 to Sink’s campaign last quarter. Jolly’s entire PAC intake was just $17,000.
Sink also received $73,650 from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and about $47,000 from Emily’s List -- an organization dedicated to “electing women to create progressive change.”
“That’s not what the people of this district want,” Guju said.
Young’s longevity was based on an intimate relationship with his constituency, combined with a moderate Republican voting record, according to Govtrack.us.
Sink appears to be replicating a similar image, but from the other side of the congressional aisle. A “Truth Team” webpage created by Sink for Congress claims she has “a proven record of bipartisanship and independence.” The page also fends off debt and tax criticisms.
But would Sink remain moderate if her financing comes from Democratic progressives? Would she vote along the same tax, spending and health care lines as Bill Young?
Susan Hepworth, press secretary for the Republican Party of Florida, told Watchdog.org the answer to those questions is obvious: No.
“She’ll be a rubber stamp for Barack Obama,” Hepworth said.
When pressed about financial support for Young’s Republican heir, David Jolly, Hepworth gave no details, but said she was "confident the Jolly team will have the resources to be competitive.”
According to his most recent filing, Jolly has $142,000 on hand and owes $105,000. Sink has more than $1 million and is already turning out television ads.
Contact William Patrick at email@example.com or follow Florida Watchdog on Twitter at @watchdogfla.