Times & Tribune disagree about who best represents Pinellas County's values in their CD13 endorsements

With voting by mail already underway in Pinellas County's special congressional election, the Tampa Bay Times and the Tampa Tribune came out with their endorsements on Sunday morning, a full 30 days before the actual day of the election.

Playing to expectations, the Times is endorsing recommending Democrat Alex Sink, and the Tribune is going with Republican David Jolly.

The Trib's editorial calls both candidates "smart and capable," but say Jolly is the choice because of his experience working as an aide to the late Bill Young and his "more conservative views."

Conversely, the Times says Sink "Reflects the mainstream values of Pinellas voters."

Who's right?

The CD13 race has been drawing outsized attention this winter because A) It's essentially the only game in town when it comes to electoral politics right now and B), the CD13 demographics make it one of the most balanced districts in the land in an increasingly gerrymandered America.

The Times editorial acknowledges that Jolly has been more impressive on the campaign stump, charitably writing that Ms. Sink have never been "terribly comfortable" campaigning. Actually she's definitely more impressive than she was in her 2010 race for governor, as simply learning from that experience and the fact that the stakes are a little less intense have sharpened her focus.

In the inimitable phrase of local political pundit Chris Ingram, Jolly "looks like a congressman." What I think he meant by that phrase is that Jolly sort of looks like something out of central casting - and looks like as somebody who could comfortably ease into working in the Beltway establishment, since he is very much a part of that, as a disciple of Young and later as a lobbyist dealing in the corridors of power in the nation's capital.

But is that what voters want? With Congress's rankings at record lows it might not be. Again it comes down to what is the collective political mood of the district, a district that has gone for Barack Obama the past two presidential elections.

While Sink and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have worked overtime in making sure that no one within 100 miles of the Tampa Bay area is unfamiliar with Jolly's lobbying past, Jolly and the National Republican Congressional Committee have been pounding at Sink's support of Obamacare as the defining issue of the campaign.

The Tribune doesn't go all in on that front in their endorsement, acknowledging that Sink "is no flaming liberal." That's an understatement, but that doesn't seem to be good enough for Mother Trib editors. They write that she would be "under enormous pressure" to carry out the Democratic Party's agenda, which they clearly don't approve of. Like Jolly, the Trib uses a favorite GOP bogey-woman, if you will, in the person of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who the paper writes is "far to the left of District 13's constituents."

Is that a fact? You could argue that Nancy Pelosi's agenda is quite aligned with Barack Obama's, which the District agreed with in 2008 (in choosing Obama over John McCain) and 2012 (when he beat Mitt Romney).

When challenged with that Obama had won in 2008, the late Congressman Young boasted that he had also won his district (obviously) and by a much greater margin. But for better or worse Young was an institution in Pinellas County politics. No Republican strategist has ever contended that his successor would easily triumph without his considerable list of accomplishments for the district in his or her back pocket to campaign on.

In the second-to-last paragraph in their endorsement of Sink, the Times writes that," Jolly does not reflect the mainstream views of this congressional district."

Again, there's more than a month before we'll know whose agenda truly does best represent Pinellas County's Congressional District 13. Or more accurately, who represents the values of those Pinellas residents who actually vote by mail or at the polls.