Her loss in the Florida 13th district should be a warning for Democrats to get out and vote
On Tuesday, there was a special election between Democrat Alex Sink and Republican David Jolly in Pinellas County, Florida’s 13th Congressional District. Sink lost narrowly Tuesday night just as she did in her race for governor against Rick Scott. There has been no word from the Sink campaign on whether she’s willing to give it another try. The voter turnout was dismal to say the least.
During the campaign, there were plenty of campaign commercials. In them, Alex Sink was always conciliatory and willing to cross the aisle with Republicans to get things done in Congress, including fixing the Affordable Care Act. David Jolly’s advertisements on the other hand were about repealing Obamacare (ACA) and basically, if you hate President Obama, vote for me.
What shocked me was the voter turnout. Republicans believe that this was the first major competitive congressional ballot box test of 2014. Jolly won by around 3,500 votes out of some 180,000 cast. In the 2012 Presidential election, 329,347 voters turned out. The plain and simple truth is that Sink lost because Democratic voters didn’t vote. Turnout in the 2012 election was nearly double what it was in the special election.
David Jolly, a Republican lobbyist, also had support from outside groups gave Jolly a major boost. The pro-Republican group American Crossroads, which said it spent $500,000 on the contest, said that Florida-13 was just an appetizer. More than $11 million was spent on the race, nearly $9 million of it from outside groups, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
“A lot of us rolled up our sleeves after 2012, studied the Obama playbook and invested in targeted voter turnout and more effective messaging. The Florida CD-13 special was an important test market and there was unprecedented cooperation among outside groups. We intend to keep refining these lessons as we prepare for the fall elections,” said Crossroads CEO Stephen Law.
That’s little comfort to most Democrats, but MacManus agrees Jolly will have a tougher time in November with Pinellas native Charlie Crist and medical marijuana on the ballot. “You will have a broader base of people voting. You will have more minorities and more young people voting, which tend to lean a little more Democratic,” MacManus said.
Ironically, Democrats have won the majority of special elections, so this was a case of Democrats just not turning out to vote. Nearly a quarter of all residents in Florida-13 are 65 or older and most likely Republican’s who are paying attention. Having Medicare already, the Affordable Care Act just means big government instead of health insurance regulation. It was a one issue campaign thanks to the campaign strategy of David Jolly and Republicans.
Jolly’s campaign commercials stated he was committed to getting rid of Obamacare entirely. Sink recognized that Obamacare was a major issue. While she highlighted how the Affordable Care Act has helped people, she also noted that the law has flaws and said she was open to GOP proposals to amend some of the measures requirements. This could be a problem come November… Those voters, including independents, who like the ACA versus those who do not. It could become a problem particularly if the media decides to frame the elections as just another chapter of the Obamacare battle.
I believe this is a warning to Democrats, progressives and independents that if they want to keep at least the Senate, they HAVE to get out and vote. Sitting on the couch feeling hopeless against a Goliath of campaign spending is not what wins elections. Voters do. If this election is any sign of what’s to come in November, it is definitely a wake up call in a swing state like Florida. Whether it’s voter I.D. laws or gerrymandering districts, there is a way around these dirty tricks, but it takes effort and tenacity. Each of us are allowed one vote… and in this case, had 4,000 more Democrats come out to vote, Alex Sink would have won.
Not all is lost here since longtime Republican Rep. Bill Young, who died in October, only had until November, 2014 anyway. There will be another election in this district later this year, so Jolly’s tenure could be very short.
Jobs and the economy are not going to be the talking points this November. “You can’t say any one thing matters, but nationally, the spin today is that Democrats need to beware of Obamacare,” said USF political science professor Susan MacManus. That’s little comfort to most Democrats, but MacManus agrees Jolly will have a tougher time in November with Pinellas native Charlie Crist and medical marijuana on the ballot. “You will have a broader base of people voting. You will have more minorities and more young people voting, which tend to lean a little more Democratic,” she added.
Nevertheless, let this be a warning to Democrats and progressives as to what happens when you stay home on election day. By not voting, you are playing right into Republican hands.
“I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of the people. They never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.” – Paul Weyrich, Conservative political activist.