Battle for an open congressional seat in rare swing district getting heated in Pinellas

Attack ads dominate debate in Sink-Jolly campaigns

TAMPA, Fla. - The 13th Congressional District in Pinellas County is a rare place where Republicans, Democrats and independents each make up roughly a third of the electorate.

And that's one reason the race to succeed the late Bill Young in that seat is being watched and paid for by people all over the country.

"I'm conservative, but I'm not angry about it. I also started this race saying I'm a Bill Young Republican," said Republican attorney David Jolly.

Jolly was a friend and legal counselor to Young and claims to share his pragmatic approach to politics.

"What that means is that I know while I'm a Republican, Democrats are not always wrong. Alex Sink is not always wrong," Jolly said.

But Jolly's opponent, former bank executive and Florida chief executive officer Alex Sink, sees Jolly as out of touch with the political melting pot that is district 13.

"I am a moderate, fiscal conservative and I'm viewed as being middle of the road politics. And even I was stunned to hear David Jolly's position on so many issues," said Sink.   

Sink and Jolly sit opposite the predictable partisan divide on many issues including abortion and Obamacare, but the millions spent by the campaigns and the political action committees that support them are focused more on who the candidates are.

The ubiquitous attack ads on the Sink side attack Jolly for cashing in on his experience on Capitol Hill. Jolly said his lobbying experience will make him more  effective in Congress.

"It's advocacy. At the end of the day, an elected official is responsible for receiving the best information they can, making a decision and being responsible to voters. Alex understands that," Jolly said.

For his part, Jolly labels Sink a carpetbagger because the Hillsborough County resident moved to Pinellas County specifically to run for the vacant congressional seat that Democrats haven't held for over 40 years. Sink counters by saying the district voted for her in her failed run for governor against Rick Scott.

"I'm running for this office because I have experience bringing Republicans and Democrats together to solve problems and my commitment is to take the voice of the people of Pinellas County to Washington with me," said Sink.

Lucas Overby, the Libertarian candidate, hopes the barrage of negative ads between the major party candidates will drive voters to his side.

"It's going to be very close for us, but if our 'get out the vote' works stronger, we have the energy, we have actual support then we have a very substantial chance of winning this race," he said.

Another strange feature of this race? Election day is March 11, but because it's a special election, the winner will have to defend their seat again in the regular election eight months later in November.

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