Updated: March 12, 2014, 9:44 AM
Lobbyist David Jolly (R) beat former Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink (D) in the Florida special election for the late Rep. C. W. Young’s (R-FL) House seat.
The race was called by the Associated Press and The Wall Street Journal less than an hour after polls closed.
Jolly in the end won with 89,099 votes (48.43 percent) to Sink’s 85,642 (46.55 percent). Libertarian candidate Lucas Overby got 8,893 votes or 4.83 percent.
Republicans were quick to hail the election results as a referendum on the entire 2014 midterm elections.
“Tonight, one of Nancy Pelosi’s most prized candidates was ultimately brought down because of her unwavering support for ObamaCare, and that should be a loud warning for other Democrats running coast to coast,” National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) said in a statement. “Pinellas County voters have made the right choice; David will be a dedicated and thoughtful representative for them in Congress.”
Democrats meanwhile tried to mark the results as a good showing for sink despite an uphill battle.
“Alex put this district in play despite Republicans spending $5 million against her, and she came closer to victory in a historically Republican district than any Democrat has in decades,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (D-NY) said in a statement. “Democrats will fight for FL-13 in the midterm, when the electorate is far less heavily tilted toward Republicans. Despite those millions from Republican outside groups, they underperformed because the only message they offered voters – repealing the ACA – is out of touch and failed to bring them even close to their historically wide margins.”
Polls in the lead up to election night showed a slight lead for Sink. The last poll before the election, a new Public Policy Polling survey, found Sink leading Jolly 48 percent to 45 percent with Libertarian Lucas Overby at 6 percent.
The race was considered a bellwether for the 2014 elections. The district, for instance, was carried by President Barack Obama over Mitt Romney 50.1 percent to 48.6 percent in 2012. But the district had also been held by Young.
The attacks from the opposing camps were also seen as key indicators. Jolly sought to tie sink closely to Obamacare while Sink’s attacks didn’t really focus on Obamacare and instead attacked Jolly on his background as a lobbyist. Outside interest groups also poured in millions into the race for both Sink and Jolly.
Sink had been seen as the slight frontrunner in the lead up as polls showed her with a small lead and she’s also had stronger fundraising numbers compared to Jolly, who’s campaign at moments tussled with national Republicans over how to handle the race.
Near the end of the campaign things got especially heated between Jolly and the NRCC over an ad the national campaign arm had been airing for Jolly, which Jolly disagreed with.
“Are you f—ing kidding me?” an NRCC official said in response to Jolly’s criticism of the ad. The official suggested that the NRCC might stop spending money in the race all together.