A year ago, the seat was not on anyone’s radar screen. The Republicans didn’t have to defend it, and the Democrats couldn’t even dream of it. Then, like a lot of things in politics, things suddenly changed.
Bill Young announced his retirement and said he would not run for re-election in 2014. Suddenly, it was a marginal seat for the fall elections. Republicans were in a panic, and the Democrats were salivating.
A week later Young passed away, and the seat was a high blip on the political radar screen. Not only is it in play, but it becomes a litmus test for the fall elections. It will be a referendum on Obamacare and other liberal positions.
Now, five weeks out from the general election, there is a cat fight with both parties running campaigns that should respectively embarrass each of them.
In all of this, I want to say some good words about my friend Alex Sink, a lady I greatly admire. Her late husband was also a great friend — a gentle Marine (if that’s not an oxymoron), and I watched him build a Polk County-based law firm into an American legal powerhouse.
Alex hasn’t done so bad herself. She had a spectacular record heading up Bank of America’s Florida operations, despite what a trashy Republican commercial would have you believe.
Alex is a consensus builder. I supported her for Florida chief financial officer, and she served with distinction in Tallahassee.
But in running for Congress, Alex has one problem: When elected she will be joined at the hip with President Obama and the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.
I have spent enough time walking the halls of Congress and seeing firsthand how the system works. Yes, I was one of those nasty lobbyists — one like David Jolly. You know, those dirty lobbyists that the Sink campaign is taking thousands in contributions from to buy television spots to tell you how bad lobbyists are.
So much for electing anyone in either party who is a consensus builder. Both parties run the Congress in a dictatorial fashion.
I remember one day I was sitting with Florida Congressman Allen Boyd, a Democrat, in his office sipping on coffee together when his pager went off. He said he would be right back, that he had to go to the floor to hold his nose and vote.
I asked why he was going to hold his nose and he said, “John, you need to understand how things operate up here. It’s not like Tallahassee. If I don’t vote the party line I will never get a bill on the calendar, and I won’t get enough money in the budget to pay for this coffee.”
My response: “Why bother?” Yeah, why bother to get elected if you can’t be free to vote your conscience and coalesce others to reasonable solutions. What difference does a consensus builder make in a dictatorship?
So, no wonder the liberal political operatives are flocking to Pinellas County like bees to an orange grove in full bloom. They aren’t here to elect a fine articulate, attractive, talented businesswoman and family person. They are coming to get another vote for the left.
Sink recently released the comment: “As you read this, the first Super PAC attacks against Alex are hitting the Pinellas airwaves. Funded by the likes of Karl Rove, these right-wing groups have already purchased millions in TV time to blast their negative ads.”
I guess those will offset the Super PAC attacks against Jolly funded by the likes of Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Charlie Rangel.
Alex is smart enough to tell Nancy and the prez to stay inside the beltway until this election is over, but please send people and money. However, VP Joe Biden is doing a Sink fundraiser, though it is being hosted 250 miles south of Pinellas County. That’s close enough.
Personalities and all that other stuff that should matter aside, the real issue of this election is who each candidate will cast their vote for speaker and who they will take their marching (voting) orders from once elected. At the end of the day, that is the only distinction between the candidates that should make a difference to Pinellas voters.
A vote for Jolly is a vote to repeal Obamacare and a lot of other congressional misdeeds over the past six years. A vote for Sink is a vote for bigger government, higher taxes and the leftist laundry list. That’s not the way it should be, but that’s the way it is.
America’s ship of state is already listing badly to the left, and another seat for President Obama is another hole in the hull to let it sink — no pun intended — faster.
Maybe we should take a closer look at Libertarian Lucas Overby. After all, he’s the only one running not beholden to anyone.
That’s my opinion, and I am sticking to it.
John Grant is a political columnist who served 21 years in the Florida Legislature and for 13 years was a lobbyist in Washington and Tallahassee. He can be reached at My firstname.lastname@example.org.