Jolly continues to court black vote
Outgunned on TV and with a smaller pile of campaign cash, U.S. Rep. David Jolly is trying to cut into what most observers assumed would bedrock support for former Governor Charlie Crist.
For the last two weeks, Jolly's efforts have been focused in Midtown, Childs Park and other African-American neighborhoods in St. Petersburg, added to the 13th Congressional District in a court-ordered redraw last year.
Much of that effort has been negative--with TV ads and door-hangers reminding voters of Crist's one-time support for chain gangs..
When Jolly brought the issue up at the one debate between the two in September, the normally-courtly Crist upbraided him --"I'm embarassed you'd say that about a fellow Floridian," Crist told Jolly.
But Jolly has doubled down on the strategy. On Monday, his campaign announced the endorsement of the sister and brother-in-law of the late Harry Singletary, Florida's first black prison director.
Framed by a grainy 1995 black and white newspaper photo of Crist standing near kneeling chain-gang prisoners, the statement by Terrye Singletary and Rudy Bradley, a former Pinellas County state representative, runs below:
"This election is personal to us. Charlie Crist forced our brother to watch as he posed for cameras and humiliated three black prisoners in chains. And he did it all just so he could look 'tough'. In this community, we always value character and integrity over politics and posturing. We can tell when someone is telling the truth, or when they're just telling us what we want to hear to advance themselves. And like the NAACP debate the other day, when the community really wanted to hear from the two contenders for Congress, Charlie didn't even bother to show up. Now what does that say?"
Crist didn't attend an NAACP forum earlier in the month, which the Jolly campaign has also pounced on.
How successful will this strategy be? Even Jolly allies like Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos aren't sure. Cretekos told the Times last week that Jolly's efforts prove he isn't writing any voter off, but acknowledged Crist's longstanding ties to the community.
Crist supporters, like Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch dismiss the attempt by Jolly to win black voters by going negative on Crist's chain-gang past as a transparent political ploy that won't work.
Black voters know and trust Crist, Welch said.