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  1. Florida Politics

After balking, GOP candidate supports David Jolly in Pinellas congressional race

Published Jan. 21, 2014

After taking some time to think about it, state Rep. Kathleen Peters said Monday that she supports David Jolly, the man who beat her in the Republican primary for Pinellas County's open congressional seat.

"I got in this race because I didn't think Alex Sink was the right person to represent Pinellas County, so I certainly support the candidate that's opposing her," said Peters, referring to the Democratic candidate in the race.

In addition, she said Jolly's Washington experience will give him the ability to work immediately to fix the controversial flood insurance program that is causing many Pinellas homeowners' rates to skyrocket.

"Give me a couple months and I can be effective," Peters said. "He can be effective from the day he walks in."

That was a different tack than she took on the day after the election, when she said she had reservations about Jolly and his past as a Washington lobbyist.

"I'm concerned with just the job that he's had," she said then, adding that it might "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."

But on Monday she said she just meant that as a candidate, "he had hurdles to overcome. That didn't mean he can't do it." Jolly is a former congressional aide to the late GOP U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, and also worked as a lobbyist, lawyer and consultant.

Peters also said she endorsed Jolly because he, like her, opposes the Affordable Care Act. Sink has said she supports the law but also wants to see it improved.

Peters also is concerned about Sink because she moved into Pinellas County from Hillsborough at the time she began running for Congress, and, "I feel real strongly about people knowing their community."

Jolly said Peters' statement shows Republicans are coming together in the race and "this is a unified party." He said supporters of Peters also have offered their backing.

"I understand the difficulty of losing a primary and it makes me appreciate Kathleen's support even more," Jolly said.

But Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman David Bergstein said Peters' and other Republicans had previously criticized Jolly because "if sent to D.C. Jolly would continue to do what lobbyists always do: put special interests over Pinellas families."

Jolly will face Sink, a former Florida chief financial officer and 2010 Democratic nominee for governor, and Libertarian Lucas Overby in the March 11 general election.

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