Friday, May 25, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: District 13 congressional race should be entertaining

It is a fairly accurate political axiom that an elected official is most vulnerable the first time he or she runs for re-election.

There are exceptions. Call it the Trey Radel Conundrum, after the Fort Myers congressman who was forced to resign before his first term even ended after getting popped on a drug arrest in Washington. There was simply no way to spin an 8-ball of cocaine bust into a man-of-the-people-fighting-for-the-little-guy campaign ad.

Such a tawdry fate is unlikely to befall congressional District 13 Rep. David Jolly, R-Brooks Brothers, a man who is so buttoned down that chances are not even his pajamas get wrinkled.

After winning a special election to succeed the late Rep. C.W. Bill Young, Jolly is now running for a full term in November. And unless some catastrophic scandal overtakes the Jolly political machine — revelations of a wild, unhinged sarsaparilla bender, perhaps? — it would seem the congressman would be well positioned to hold on to the seat for the foreseeable future.

Democrat Alex Sink, who lost to Jolly by less than 2 percentage points in March, has opted out of a second run for Congress. And with a May 2 qualifying deadline looming for candidates to file to take on Jolly in the fall, the list of potential opponents is not exactly a stampede of electoral ambition.

St. Petersburg lawyer Jessica Ehrlich, who had run in the past and stepped aside for Sink, might yet enter the race. But for now she hasn't indicated any interest.

That leaves Democrat Rev. Manuel Sykes, pastor at St. Petersburg's Bethel Community Baptist Church, as the only formally announced opponent to Jolly.

It is true God works in mysterious ways. So it is probably fitting that Jolly finds himself facing off against a man of the cloth who knows a little bit about sacrificial lambs.

If Sink, a candidate who twice carried Pinellas County in her first campaign for chief financial officer and a second time as a gubernatorial candidate, couldn't parlay her name recognition to pull off a victory before narrowly losing to Jolly three months ago, the task would seem to be a bit more problematic for Sykes, who, much like Sink at the start of her campaign, doesn't even live in District 13.

The good news is at least Sykes resides in Pinellas County, so the specious Jolly attacks on Sink as a conniving carpetbagger likely wouldn't carry the same resonance against the reverend.

Still, the geography does not bode well for Sykes. District 13 runs from South Pinellas to Dunedin but carves out large swaths of the southern part of St. Petersburg and downtown, which would lean more toward a Democratic candidate, especially an African-American pol.

And despite his pastorship, Sykes has more than his fair share of baggage, not the least of which was his admission to fathering a child out of wedlock and, according to the woman, encouraging the mother to consider an abortion.

You might — might — be able to get away with that sort of behavior if you are not a cleric. But when you are a minister, the expectations for more ethical conduct go up exponentially.

Oooooops, there goes the virtuous high ground. If Sykes doesn't like reading about this chapter in his life, just wait until it starts showing up in opposition research fliers in mailboxes all over the district. Is this right? Perhaps not. But Sykes had to know that once you throw your hat in the ring, your life becomes fair game.

In announcing his candidacy Sykes delivered his full-throated support for Obamacare, immigration reform and equal pay for women, issues Jolly pretty much regards as the liberal sign of the beast. Well, at least you can't say there is a great deal of nuance between the two candidates.

Whatever his shortcomings or demographic challenges on the stump or the seemingly long odds conspiring against him, Manuel Sykes will likely bring a preacher's rhetorical passion to the hustings.

The reverend might well lose to David Jolly, but this much is fairly certain — at least this will be one of the more entertaining congressional races of 2014.

Comments
Editorial: Filling Rocky Point lagoon to build townhomes is an empty-headed idea

Editorial: Filling Rocky Point lagoon to build townhomes is an empty-headed idea

One of the worst ideas in a long time in the field of urban planning received a blessing this month when the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission approved a land-use change for a project that calls for filling three acres of water insi...
Published: 05/25/18
Editorial: Searching for the real Adam Putnam

Editorial: Searching for the real Adam Putnam

Send out an Amber Alert for Adam Putnam. The red-haired, affable fellow who has served capably as a state legislator, member of Congress and agriculture commissioner is missing. In his place is a far-right caricature who has branded himself as a prou...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Editorial: A strong economic case for restoring voting rights for felons

Editorial: A strong economic case for restoring voting rights for felons

Floridians are paying a steep price for a system that makes it as difficult as possible for people who leave prison to reintegrate into civic life. Gov. Rick Scott’s clemency process isn’t just archaic and cruel — it also wastes enormous public resou...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Editorial: Trump right to cancel North Korea talks on nuclear weapons

Editorial: Trump right to cancel North Korea talks on nuclear weapons

Regardless of the reason, the cancellation of the U.S.-North Korea summit to address Pyonyang’s nuclear program is hardly the worst possible outcome of this high-stakes diplomatic gamble. President Donald Trump was unprepared, North Korea’s Kim Jong ...
Updated: 10 hours ago

NFL kneels before the altar of profits

The owners of the 32 National Football League teams sent a wrongheaded and, frankly, un-American message to their players Wednesday: Expressing your opinion during the national anthem is no longer permitted."A club will be fined by the League if its ...
Published: 05/24/18

Editorial: A positive first step in ensuring student access at USFSP

As a task force sorts out countless details involved in folding the University of South Florida St. Petersburg back into the major research university based in Tampa, ensuring access for good Pinellas students remains a concern. An enhanced cooperati...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Legislation that waters down the 2010 Dodd-Frank law and was sent to President Donald Trump this week is a mixed bag at best. Some provisions recognize that Congress may have gone too far in some areas in the wake of the Great Recession to place new ...
Published: 05/23/18
Updated: 05/24/18

Another voice: The chutzpah of these men

A new phase of the #MeToo movement may be upon us. Call it the "not so fast" era: Powerful men who plotted career comebacks mere months after being taken down by accusations of sexual misconduct now face even more alarming claims.Mario Batali, the ce...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/23/18
Editorial: Candor key step to restoring trust at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute

Editorial: Candor key step to restoring trust at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Heart Institute

Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital has begun the important work of rebuilding trust with its patients and the community following revelations of medical errors and other problems at its Heart Institute. CEO Dr. Jonathan Ellen candidly acknowledges...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/23/18
Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Editorial: Tampa Bay House members fail to stand up to Big Sugar

Big Sugar remains king in Florida. Just three of the state’s 27 House members voted for an amendment to the farm bill late Thursday that would have started unwinding the needless government supports for sugar that gouge taxpayers. Predictably, the am...
Published: 05/18/18