Rep. Jolly running for Senate; ex-Gov. Crist eyes his seat

AP News
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Posted: Jul 20, 2015 6:29 PM

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Florida Congressman David Jolly announced Monday that he's running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Marco Rubio, who is running for president, and former Gov. Charlie Crist said he's eyeing Jolly's seat.

Jolly, a Republican who was elected to Congress in the spring of 2014, made the announcement to the media Monday morning. He was scheduled to hold a campaign rally later in the day. After the announcement, Crist posted on Facebook and tweeted that he will run for Jolly's seat if his St. Petersburg home is included in the district when the Legislature redraws it.

Jolly represents Florida's 13th Congressional district, which encompasses almost all of Pinellas County on the Gulf Coast. The Florida Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that Jolly's district and seven others must be redrawn, suggesting that a sliver of south Pinellas County where Crist lives shouldn't be part of another district that is centered in Tampa across the bay.

Jolly will face Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera of Miami and Congressman Ron DeSantis of Jacksonville in the primary. Democratic Congressmen Patrick Murphy of Jupiter and Alan Grayson of Orlando are also seeking the Senate seat.

The race is expected to draw national attention because it gives Democrats a chance to pick up a seat in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Jolly defeated Democrat Alex Sink in a March 2014 special election after Congressman C.W. Bill Young died in office from cancer. More than $11 million was spent on that race, according to the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit group that tracks government information.

Jolly, who worked for Young as an aide and then in finance, faced no serious opposition in November 2014 and was re-elected. He was born in the district and is married.

During his 15 months in Congress, the 42-year-old Jolly has voiced support for same-sex marriage and voted against a GOP House plan because it called for dramatic changes to Medicare.

"I do believe in personal freedom," Jolly said Monday when asked about his stance on same-sex marriage. He added that his faith leads him to believe in "traditional marriage," but that the constitution allows for both traditional and same sex marriage.

Jolly said he will "reject the politics of division and class warfare that have defined the current Administration," keep pushing for increased health care benefits for veterans and continue to criticize President Obama on his foreign policy.

"We will not tolerate failed foreign policies and wavering alliances that leave America vulnerable to a dangerous treaty with Iran, weakness before our enemies and a failed policy to combat ISIS," he said in a news release.

Crist served as a Republican governor from 2007 to 2011. He ran for U.S. Senate as an independent in 2010 and for governor as a Democrat in 2014, losing both races.

In 2010, voters approved a constitutional amendment that requires districts to be compact and not drawn to favor incumbents or a political parties. The Legislature will have to hold a special session and approve new maps by Sept. 25.

If the Legislature follow's the Supreme Court's suggestion, the heavily Democratic section of Pinellas County would be added to Jolly's district.

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Associated Press writer Brendan Farrington in Tallahassee contributed to this report.