Clash of the moderates: Florida's 13th gets interesting (again)

It was nearly a year ago that the news came down about a handful of Congressional districts in Florida that needed to be redrawn. Pinellas County’s 13th was one. And, over the past year, the race to fill that seat has been delightfully unpredictable, with its latest iteration being incumbent David Jolly’s decision to drop his Senate run to instead try to keep his seat.

He faces former Governor Charlie Crist, and it could be a nail-biter. Crist may be a Democrat now, and the district may have been redrawn to favor Democrats, but polling has the two about even at the moment.

Hence, much like the 2014 special election that won Jolly his seat in the first place, the race for the 13th will be one to watch.

So here are some things to look out for:

Party predictability

These two candidates would be the first to tell you that sound policy and serious issues should transcend party affiliation. Both have cred in that sense. Crist, for obvious reasons. Jolly, meanwhile, has cosponsored legislation with Democrats and has recently sought middle ground in the latest flare-up of the ongoing gun control debate. On Wednesday, as his Democratic colleagues staged a sit-in and his fellow Republicans refused to even look at closing a gun loophole that gives suspected terrorists legal access to guns, Jolly called for a compromise.

Sadly, though, they’ll still have to play the game we all hate.

About as soon as the race became competitive, Crist got the president’s endorsement Monday and surely will get a boost from the state and national parties as well as unions (SEIU already has endorsed him) and political action committees (we’re wondering whether we’ll see one from unpopular Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz or nah).

Jolly, meanwhile, said after announcing his House run he’ll support Rubio’s Senate bid over that of Democrat Patrick Murphy (should he win the primary against fellow Congressman Alan Grayson) even though he’s been critical of Rubio's loose interpretation of the word “work” and calls Murphy a friend.

So, because of the awful way the two-party system functions, honesty and bipartisanship can only take effect after the election.

Send in the PACs (no, please don’t)

When Jolly won his seat in the special election to replace C.W. Bill Young, who’d died the previous October, outside money had for months fueled obnoxious, barely true attack ads for both major party candidates (the Democrat, of course, being Alex Sink). Neither candidate had any control of the message. At the time, that race was the only game in town and more PAC money was available. With a zillion other races happening this year, outside money may not flow in at quite the same volume. But given that it’s the rare competitive race, there’s bound to be a good amount, which means more of the attack ads we love.

Notably, however, the National Republican Congressional Committee has indicated it might not get involved. That group was reportedly at odds with Jolly’s campaign in 2014, and as a Congressman Jolly has not shied away from criticizing the status quo, namely by going on 60 Minutes to rail against the NRCC for reportedly expecting GOP members of Congress to raise some $18,000 a day. But even if that entity doesn’t get involved, it would be somewhat shocking if other GOP entities did not, this being a competitive partisan race and all.

And it comes down to...

As the contents of your mailbox may suggest, campaigns and PACs know what party you’re with, how often you vote and what issues your demographic may find important. If you and your spouse belong to different parties, he or she may get a birthday card in the mail from one candidate or office holder, but you get nothing. When the district was shaped differently, blanket messaging to right-leaning seniors did the trick. But now, Florida’s 13th has an influx of African-American and younger, hipper voters. So cohesive messaging will probably be tough to nail down. Crist’s people already have a theme going — tying Jolly to Trump, who probably won’t do so well in moderate Pinellas.

Yet, given how bizarre the past year has been in terms of politics, it’s tough to know what will work.

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