Republicans have won the first big election of the Obamacare era.
GOP candidate David Jolly narrowly defeated Democrat Alex Sink in the Florida 13th district’s special election Tuesday night. With almost 100 per cent of the vote counted, Jolly had 48.5 per cent of the vote to Sink’s 46.7 per cent, according to The Associated Press. Sink conceded shortly before 8 p.m. Tuesday night.
Both parties painted the Florida 13th as an important testing ground for the midterm elections later this year. It is the definition of a “swing” district — the late Rep. Bill Young, a Republican, had held the seat since 1971. But President Barack Obama won the district in both 2008 and 2012.
“Despite being heavily outspent by Democrats, David won in a district that President Obama carried in the 2012 election,” RNC Chair Reince Priebus said in a statement.
“His victory shows that voters are looking for representatives who will fight to end the disaster of Obamacare, to get Washington to spend our money responsibly, and to put power in the hands of families and individuals. In November, voters all across the country will have the chance to send the same message that Pinellas County voters have sent: Democrats’ policies are not working for America.”
Even on Monday, Democrats weren’t exactly bullish about their chances. The district had built-in advantages for Republicans. It was a special election, which plunged turnout levels compared to 2008 and 2012. And it is a Republican-leaning district.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spun the loss as one showing Democrats could compete in a Republican district.
“Ultimately, the overwhelmingly Republican composition of the special election electorate — expected to be 13 points more Republican than Democratic — paired with nearly $US5 million in spending from 11 Republican groups made for a far steeper challenge than any midterm battleground district will be in November, including in FL-13,” the DCCC said in a memo.
The race was a clear sign special interests are set for a monstrous spending campaign in 2014. According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, the parties and outside groups spent almost $US9 million in the Florida 13th. In total, more than $US11 million was spent on the election, according to The Sunlight Foundation.
One of those groups — Crossroads GPS, the spinoff of Karl Rove’s American Crossroads super PAC — said this race served as an important test case for November.
“A lot of us rolled up our sleeves after 2012, studied the Obama playbook and invested in targeted voter turnout and more effective messaging,” spokesman Jonathan Collegio said in a statement.
“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.”
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