When Bill Young (R, 13th Congressional District of Florida), the longest-serving congressman in the U.S.House of Representatives, passed away late last year, it was initially thought that the special election to replace him would merely be a formality. After all,the seat had been in Republican control for more than 40 years.
The Democratic Party, however, seized the opportunity: now, the special election, which takes place on March 11, is a dead-heat between a former Young staffer, David Jolly, and 2010 gubernatorial candidate and former Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink.
The race is a prime opportunity for the Democrats to gain some much needed ground in the House, with a very uncertain climate surrounding the upcoming midterm elections. As Fox News put it on Feb. 27, “Special elections rarely attract this much attention.”
The 13th District, which includes much of St. Petersburg, has been a major advertising hotspot. The Washington Post reported recently that more than $8 million has been spent on television advertising, including a staggering $1.5 million from Sink’s campaign alone. Jolly has spent less, but has found major support from outside entities’ independent expenditures – including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has spent nearly $1 million.
Right now, the major polling going on – a three-way effort between the Tampa Bay Times, Bay News 9 and WUSF – indicates Sink has a healthy if unstable lead of seven points. A poll from the Jolly-supporting Chamber of Commerce, however, has shown Jolly and Sink in a virtual tie.