After loss, Peters says GOP 'weakened' with Jolly as nominee
The day after losing her bid for the Republican nomination for Pinellas' open congressional seat, state Rep. Kathleen Peters was back at work in the state Capitol in Tallahassee, but was not yet ready to endorse her party's nominee, David Jolly.
Peters finished a distant second with slightly less than a third of the vote in a three-way race for the right to face Democrat Alex Sink on March 11 for the seat held for more than four decades by the late C.W. Bill Young. In a highly competitive special election where Sink holds a sizeable fund-raising advantage, Republicans must close ranks fast to dispel doubts about whether they are unified for the battle ahead.
On the drive back to Tallahassee, Peters said she and Jolly talked by phone, and she said she wants the seat to stay Republican. In an interview with the Times, she voiced lingering reservations about Jolly and his past work as a Washington lobbyist, describing her party as "weakened" because of lingering questions of "trust" between Jolly and voters in the 13th congressional district.
"It's nothing personal about him. He is a nice man. He's a professional. I have nothing but good things to say about him," Peters said of Jolly. "I'm concerned with just the job that he's had -- not that it's a bad job, it's just that, how that's going to, I think, weigh heavily on the voters, to have a lobbyist who represents special interests, to now say that they're going to represent the people and be able to separate that.
"Is there going to be trust there? That's been my concern all along, and that's where I think we're going to be weakened," Peters said.
Peters said Jolly has a responsibility to "step up" and reassure voters "that he can make that shift and that transition to truly represent the people of Pinellas County and their interests and their agenda versus a special interest agenda."
Peters described Sink as a "very formidable" candidate. She said part of the reason she lost was that Jolly had a head start of several weeks building grass roots support and raising money, along with the support of Young's widow, Beverly.