David Jolly pulled together an impressive victory over two Republican primary rivals to become the GOPs nominee in the battle for an open congressional seat in the Tampa Bay area.
Despite being a first-time candidate who was largely unknown in the race, Jolly was good on the stump and sharp when it came to policy. Jolly also proved to be a strong fundraiser and his team spent wisely. To be sure, Jolly starts off as a slight underdog against Alex Sink but he is certainly in the game.
But if Jolly emerges from the primary as a big winner, there were major losers as well. After first winning a Florida House seat in 2012, Kathleen Peters decided to run for Congress a year later. Jolly painted Peters as a liberal which helped ensure his win. Peters also cut her own throat with some over-the-top attacks on Jollys lobbying record, including insisting he backed Obamacare. These attacks fell flat and boomeranged back to hurt Peters. When the smoke cleared, Jolly beat her by 13 percent. Simply put, Peters underwhelmed.
Mark Bircher had an impressive background and he should have been made-to-order for the tea party to support. But Bircher pulled in less than a quarter of the total vote. His campaign spent what little money they had wisely, putting ads during conservative talk-radio shows for example, but there were also some serious blunders including not responding to a national pro-life groups survey -- which allowed Jolly to win their endorsement.
Of course, there were other losers behind Peters and Bircher. Jack Latvala, the liberal medias favorite Republican in Tallahassee, went all in for Peters and it didnt pay off for him. Latvalas looking to become Senate president and establish a political dynasty with his son Chris running for a House seat.
Latvala failed to deliver for Peters in his own backyard. This isnt the first time, of course, Latvala lost on his own home field since he went for Jim Frishe over Jeff Brandes in a primary back in 2012. But the losses are starting to pile up on the Republican side since Latvala also backed Mike Weinstein over Aaron Bean in another Senate primary in 2012. With Peters not even coming close to beating Jolly, Latvala once again suffered a big loss which looks even worse since its on his home turf.
Allen West is another loser in Tuesdays primary, though nowhere near as large a one as Latvala. West was the most prominent conservative behind Bircher who, despite claims of momentum, simply failed to be a major factor when the dust settled. Despite losing out to Democrat Patrick Murphy in 2012, West wants to remain one of Floridas leading conservatives. Hell be speaking to Sarasota Republicans next month and has floated his name out there as a possible Senate candidate if Marco Rubio doesnt run again in 2016. Still, despite his last-minute push for Bircher, West could not see his candidate anywhere near close to victory.
For a first-time candidate, Jolly did a fine job of presenting himself as the most conservative candidate who could win the general election. He starts out behind Sink but she has a tendency of blowing things. Jolly has a real chance in this race despite being the underdog.
Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson writes exclusively for Sunshine State News.