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GOP U.S. Rep. David Jolly, facing a newly drawn district, switches to U.S. Senate race

Decision comes after the Florida Supreme Court orders changes likely to make Jolly’s district more Democratic

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

florida mugST. PETERSBURG, Florida (CFP) — In the wake of a Florida Supreme Court decision ordering changes in the state’s U.S. House map, Republican U.S. Rep. David Jolly has decided to jump into the open U.S. Senate seat in 2016, rather than face re-election in what will likely be a more Democratic district.

U.S. Rep. David Jolly

U.S. Rep. David Jolly

In a statement announcing his campaign July 20, Jolly, 42, who won his House seat in a special election in 2014, said he would run “on an unwavering platform that will reject the politics of division and class warfare that have defined the current administration.”

Lolly also called for creating “a new economy founded on the principle that individuals and families, not government bureaucrats, create success.”

Jolly’s entry into the Senate race adds to a crowded Republican field that already includes U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and Lieutenant Governor Carlos López-Cantera.

Jolly currently represents Florida’s 13th District seat in Pinellas County, in the Tampa Bay area. He succeeded the late GOP U.S. Rep. C.W. “Bill” Young, who held the seat for more than 42 years before his death in 2013.

Jolly’s win frustrated Democratic hopes of picking up one of only three Republican-held seats in the South that President Obama carried in  2012. He went on to re-election in the 2014 general election and was expected to run again in 2016.

But the Florida Supreme Court threw a monkey wrench into those plans July 9, ruling that the Republican-controlled state legislature unconstitutionally gerrymandered the map to help the GOP’s electoral prospects. The high court ordered the state legislature to redraw eight districts, including Jolly’s.

The Supreme Court objected to the legislature’s decision to shift African-American voters in St. Petersburg into the neighboring 14th District, across the bay in Tampa, to make the 13th more Republican-friendly, which justices said violated a requirement that districts be geographically compact wherever possible.

Shifting those voters back would have made Jolly’s swing district harder to retain.

The Supreme Court’s ruling might also force another U.S. House member into the Senate race on the Democratic side.

The court ruled that the 5th District — an oddly shaped district that snakes through northeast and central Florida from Jacksonville to Orlando to pick up black voters and is at one point the width of a highway — must be redrawn in an east-west configuration from Jacksonville towards the Panhandle.

U.S. House nominee Gwen Graham

U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham

That change is likely to shift the Panhandle-based 2nd District , held by U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, D-Tallahassee, to the south, which would make it more Republican and more difficult for her to carry. That prompted Democratic strategists to talk up a possible Graham Senate bid, although the congresswoman herself has remained non-committal.

Former Florida Governor Charlie Crist has announced he will seek the Democratic nomination for Jolly’s seat if the legislature, as expected, draws his St. Petersburg home into the district.

The Republican-turned-indepenent-turned-Democrat lost statewide races for the U.S. Senate in 2012 and for governor in 2014.


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