Tuesday night Florida voters will set the stage in the special election for the swing district previously held by the late Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-FL).
So far, experts estimate that it will be a good night for former Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink (D) and Lobbyist David Jolly (R), the favored candidates in Tuesday’s Democratic and Republican primaries, respectively.
The months leading up to Tuesday’s contests, after Young passed away, have been engulfed in drama — including a push to acknowledge Young’s children from his previous marriage at his funeral. Below is a guide to the contenders looking to win a special election that has been dubbed a bellwether race.
Democrats: Alex Sink
Democrat Alex Sink, who narrowly lost the 2010 Florida gubernatorial race to now-Gov. Rick Scott (R), is the all-but-certain Democratic nominee in the special election. The 65-year-old Sink, after floating a rematch against Scott, instead opted to run for Congress. Democratic groups like EMILY’s List were quick to rally behind Sink, passing up Democrat Jessica Ehrlich, who had unsuccessfully challenged Young in 2012 and later dropped out.
Sink has also been the frontrunner in fundraising for both sides, collecting more money than any of the Republican candidates in the race. Sink has even received money from former Gov. Charlie Crist (D), now running for governor, who Sink once called a “disaster.” After interviewing a dozen observers on the right and left, Politico pegged Sink as the candidate extremely likely to win both the Democratic nomination and the general election.
Republicans: David Jolly
Former lobbyist and Young aide Jolly seems to be where the safe money is in the GOP primary. Polls have shown him as the Republican primary frontrunner and he’s led in fundraising among the Republican candidates. Jolly has also been endorsed by Bob Barker, the former host of “The Price Is Right,” as well as the National Right To Life.
Notably, the Jolly was endorsed by Young’s widow. Jolly’s opponents have tried to whittle down his lead by attacking him on his background as a lobbyist. The Tampa Bay Times also recently pointed out that the 41-year-old former congressional aide, whose divorce is scheduled to be final on Jan. 16, is currently dating a 27-year-old woman who made The Hill’s list of “50 most beautiful people.” Jolly, meanwhile, has tried to tie himself as closely as possible to Young, calling himself a “Bill Young Republican.”
He was also endorsed by the right-leaning Tampa Bay Tribune.
State Rep. Kathleen Peters (R) ranks second in the polls behind Jolly. The state Florida lawmaker also had the second best fundraising among Republican primary candidates. Peters has been endorsed by a number of Republican women lawmakers who have also helped her with fundraising. Peters has also gotten the endorsement of Young’s son.
Still, Peters’ candidacy has been mired down by a mixture of charges that Peters is too vague on abortion — she’s said she’s pro-life but doesn’t consider the issue a priority — and the federal budget. Jolly has also attacked her by saying she is inconsistent on Obamacare, since she previously said she didn’t think it was a good idea to repeal the law without anything to replace it. Democrats have similarly attacked Peters on the Affordable Care Act. If that wasn’t bad enough for Peters, The Hill recently reported that Peters has a habit of being late on paying taxes on her house.
The candidate who is the least likely to emerge successful in the special election is retired Marine Corps Brigadier General Mark Bircher (R), an attorney and pilot who has been endorsed by former Rep. Allen West (R-FL).
He is also likely one of the few congressional candidates today who has been in a Van Halen music video. Bircher has lagged behind all the other candidates in fundraising and polls of the race. He’s also had to drop $10,000 of his own money to buoy his campaign. For a while, Bircher appears to have been the only candidate in the race to not have a campaign website (he has one now).