A New Round of Florida Redistricting has Charlie Crist Eyeing a House Bid

by Daily Kos Elections –

Charlie Crist

FL-13, Sen: Could we see a Rep. Charlie Crist in the 115th Congress? The former governor initially showed little interest in challenging Republican Rep. David Jolly in what is currently a very swingy seat, but that was before the Florida Supreme Court ordered the GOP-led legislature to redraw the state’s congressional map. It’s pretty much a certainty that the court won’t accept a new map that doesn’t move several heavily Democratic areas into this seat, and Florida mapping expert Matthew Isbell estimates that the likely changes will take Obama’s percentage of the vote in FL-13 from 50 to 54 percent. (See our FL Redistrictingitem below for more.) Crist lives in one of the St. Petersburg neighborhoods that’s likely to wind up in Jolly’s new seat, and Politico’s Marc Caputo reports that he’s considering running here.

Crist hasn’t said much publicly, only telling the Tampa Bay Times that he’s been getting plenty of phone calls about it and that he “misses public service.” But Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch confirms that Crist has reached out to him about a possible congressional bid. However, Caputo tells us that Crist is pretty cautious after losing his last two statewide campaigns, and he doesn’t want to run unless he feels it’s a “sure thing.” But even if this district changes, there’s no guarantee that he’ll have a clear shot at the Democratic nomination. Former Obama Administration official Eric Lynn has been raising real money for his campaign against Jolly, and his campaign consultant is making it clear he’s not just going to step aside.

A few other Democrats are publicly considering this contest but they sound less than thrilled at the idea of facing Crist, who has proven to be popular in Pinellas County no matter which party label he’s run under. While state Rep. Dwight Dudley says that he’s still interested in running regardless of what Crist does, he admits that the former governor’s decision will influence him. Welch says he’d support a Crist campaign, but would consider this race if he stays out. There are undoubtedly several other local Democrats who are now privately thinking about a bid and watching Crist’s moves closely.

But there are two Tampa Bay Democrats we probably won’t see on the 2016 ballot. Alex Sink, who narrowly lost the 2014 special election to Jolly, confirms she’s not trying again. Sink is enthusiastic about Crist though, whom she calls a “perfect candidate” for this seat and a “terrific representative.” Sink briefly thought about running against Crist in last year’s gubernatorial primary, so that’s high praise indeed! Ex-Tampa Councilor Mary Mulhern announced that she would run a few weeks ago, but she sounds very reluctant to now. Mulhern didn’t outright say no, but she says she’s only likely to try for it if other major Democrats stay out.

And Pinellas County Democrats may not have Dave Jolly to kick around for much longer. The congressman sounded pretty meh about a Senate run before Thursday, but Caputo reports he’s now seriously considering it. Jolly would enter a crowded GOP primary and his relatively moderate social views (Jolly is one of the few congressional Republicans to back same-sex marriage) may not serve him well, but he could decide it’s better than going through a challenging re-election campaign.

There are several local Republicans who could try and succeed Jolly if he does bail, and ex-St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker would likely be atop the NRCC’s wish list. But Baker turned down a bid in 2013 and he may be reluctant to run for a tougher version of this district.

 

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

 

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