The negative campaigning has begun in the Republican primary for Pinellas County's open congressional seat, with candidates David Jolly and Kathleen Peters attacking each other in separate mailings.
Jolly's mailing says "It's Pinellas County's worst nightmare … keeping Obamacare," and features pictures of Republican Peters, Democratic congressional candidate Alex Sink and President Barack Obama.
It also includes a quote from Peters, who said "I do not think we should take a stand and absolutely repeal it." But it doesn't include her reasoning, which is that there are portions of the law which Americans want — such as being able to get coverage for pre-existing conditions — and that it doesn't make sense to kill the law without having something in place to replace it.
She criticized the mailing's "tabloid spin" and called it misleading. "If there were facts in there, it would be different."
She also said she was troubled by the way Jolly's piece brings together two female candidates in a weirdly discolored photo collage, a tactic she said has led some to criticize GOP candidates in the past for waging a "war on women."
As to the wording, Jolly called it "a contrast piece" — illustrating that he flatly states he would vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and Peters does not. He added that, "to suggest that gender has anything to do with this is nonsense."
Which brings us to the piece Peters' campaign is sending out.
It asks "What kind of Republican makes campaign contributions to Obamacare liberals in Congress?"
It goes on to say that Jolly has contributed to some notable Democrats, including Jesse Jackson Jr., something not likely to be welcomed in a Republican primary. Jolly is a former aide to the late U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, and Jolly later became a lobbyist and Washington-based attorney and consultant. He said he has maintained relationships with several elected officials, and has contributed to many Republicans as well.
The mailing pointedly says that although Jolly contributed to Democrats, he gave "not a dime to Congressman Bill Young."
True, Jolly said, and here's why. He said after leaving Young's employment in 2007, he held a fundraiser for him in Washington and gave his former boss a check for $1,000. "He tore it up and gave it back to me and said 'You're family,' " Jolly said. He estimated he had hosted about 10 fundraisers for Young over the years.
Jolly, Peters and fellow Republican Mark Bircher are seeking the nomination in the Jan. 14 GOP primary. The winner will go on to face Democrat Sink and Libertarian Lucas Overby in the March 11 general election.
They are seeking the seat left vacant by Young, who died in October. The 13th Congressional District runs from south Pinellas to Dunedin, with portions of downtown and southern St. Petersburg cut out.