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Saturday, May 26, 2018
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District 13 campaigns go low profile

LARGO — Anyone hoping David Jolly or Alex Sink would be out shaking hands and kissing babies on the last day of the last full week before election day was probably disappointed Friday.

The Republican and the Democrat, respectively, kept noticeably low profiles heading into the final weekend before the as-yet unnervingly close race is decided on Tuesday, though the nasty messages flying to and fro between the camps continue uninterrupted.

Jolly sat in on a small veterans’ roundtable discussion with two other congressmen who went to bat for him, while Sink, known not to be a fan of the media spotlight, let her supporters do the talking.

Despite Friday morning’s brisk air, Jon “Bowzer” Bauman, formerly of doo-wop revival band Sha Na Na, stood in the shade of a pine tree at the Pinellas Supervisor of Elections office in Largo. He lives in California but occasionally lends his voice to Democratic campaigns, as he did in a pro-Sink robocall Tuesday.

“I’m passionate about this race,” he said as a steady stream of early voters cast their ballots.

Ostensibly, he was there because he’s passionate about Social Security, which has become a major talking point for Sink supporters who allege Jolly would privatize the program.

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Of course, it can’t hurt that Bauman is a baby boomer pitching Sink to other baby boomers at a time when few people have an eye trained on politics.

“I’m able to use whatever degree of celebrity I have to get some attention, focus some attention on issues and candidates who care about those issues, like Alex Sink cares about the issues I’m most focused on, particularly in this kind of context,” he said. “Elections aren’t usually held on March 11th.”

Behind the scenes, word spread about a possible violation of Federal Election Commission rules barring candidate campaigns from coordinating with super PACS that create ads on their behalf. The Congressional Leadership Fund, a pro-Republican group, wrote to the FEC alleging that the House Majority PAC, a pro-Democrat group, violated the rules for its use of local Democratic party activist Elizabeth Snedecker in an attack ad on Jolly. Snedecker is active with the Largo/Mid-Pinellas Democratic Club, which House Majority PAC spokesman Andy Stone said did not apply.

“If the Congressional Leadership Fund wants to spend what few resources it has on frivolous legal complaints attacking an 81-year-old woman who’s spent a lifetime speaking her mind, that’s their prerogative,” Stone said. “But it smacks of a desperation move.”

The Jolly camp had its own bad press to deal with Friday as a piece on political news site Politico claimed national Republicans involved in the race have been frustrated with the way Jolly’s campaign has been run. The piece did not name sources, but it said party operatives have called it a “Keystone Cops”-esque operation. The National Republican Congressional Committee, the GOP’s House elections arm, declined comment.

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“We don’t discuss internal conversations we have with campaigns, nor do we respond to unsubstantiated rumors,” NRCC Communications Director Andrea Bozek said. “Both local and national Republicans have been working around the clock to elect David Jolly on Tuesday.”

Jolly, meanwhile, spent Friday afternoon among friends — about 20 veterans, veterans’ advocates and two Republican Florida congressmen, Rep. Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, and Rep. Richard Nugent, who also serves on the committee.

The campaign organized the event, which was in a classroom on St. Petersburg College’s Pinellas County campus, but Jolly took a back seat as the two congressmen talked about how to better serve the economic, physical and mental health needs of the county’s 98,600 veterans amid a massive Veterans Administration case backlog and possible budget cuts.

The candidates may have laid low toward the end of the week, but given that so many people have already voted by mail or at an early voting site — some 115,529 at last count — Election Day may not be as big of a deal as it once was. Early voting ends at 5 p.m. Sunday.

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