Politics

House GOP to Jolly: We're Not Sure We Want You Back

The NRCC declined to pledge financial support for the now former Senate candidate

David Jolly is running for re-election to Florida's 13th District. ( Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

House Republicans aren’t ready to welcome back David Jolly.  

The Tampa-area congressman announced Friday that he would forgo his Florida Senate campaign and run for re-election , saying that he had “unfinished business” in the House.  

But instead of cheering Jolly’s decision, some fellow Republicans are instead making plain that they’re not eager to help their colleague return to the House. They’re frustrated with Jolly’s perceived lack of cooperation with fellow House Republicans and the National Republican Congressional Committee, which they believe dragged Jolly into his current House seat during his 2014 special election victory.  

And they’re also skeptical that Jolly, who pledged during his Senate campaign not to directly raise money, can win a tough race against the presumptive Democratic nominee, former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist.  

“You would think there would be a little bit of appreciation that would be shown,” said Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, who was deputy chairman of the NRCC from 2012-14. “As far as I know, from what I’ve heard, there hasn’t been with the NRCC. So it makes people wonder, are we really going to jump into this thing again?”  

The Georgia Republican added: “Members that typically give money, they may look at it and ask, what kind of teammate has he been for the team?”  

The NRCC itself — a group whose sole purposes are to elect House Republicans and protect incumbents — is also showing its frustration with Jolly, declining to pledge crucial financial support to the congressman’s campaign.  

“The NRCC was not included in his ‘deliberations’ and has not had any discussions with David about him running for re-election,” said Katie Martin, spokeswoman for the NRCC. “We do not — and will not — comment about commitments for financial support or anything else.”  

The reluctance of Republicans to back Jolly is potentially pivotal in the race for Florida’s 13th Congressional District, a Democratic-leaning district where Crist — for all his recent political struggles— makes for a formidable House candidate.  

Jolly will have to raise a lot of money in the four and a half months before Election Day to be competitive in the race. And to begin April, Jolly’s Senate fundraising account had only $562,000, according to the Federal Election Commission.  

He’s also in a political bind: To raise enough money, Jolly might have to reconsider his own personal ban on directly soliciting cash for his campaign. The reversal would prove great fodder for Democrats, who could use it to portray the congressman as a Washington hypocrite.  

The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call rated the 13th District Safe for Democrats before Jolly's decision. The rating is unlikely to change until the congressman proves he can defeat Crist in the redrawn district.   

For its part, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee issued a statement Friday reciting Jolly’s admission that “no Republican can win” his district. The district was redrawn in 2015 in an order mandated by the Florida Supreme Court.  

Westmoreland and other Republicans are frustrated with the amount of work they put in to get Jolly elected in the first place versus the appreciation he showed afterward. Not only did Jolly not raise as much as money as he was asked, he decided to abandon a battleground House seat despite the GOP’s heavy investment in putting him there in the first place.  

Westmoreland estimated that he and NRCC Chairman Greg Walden or Oregon raised about $350,000 for Jolly during his 2014 special election, in which he upset Democratic nominee Alex Sink. The NRCC, he said, spent about $2.5 million.  

“I don’t think Mr. Jolly has maybe shown appreciation for the people that really helped him get to that seat,” Westmoreland said.  

A flare-up between Jolly and the NRCC is nothing new. It sparked again earlier this year when the Tampa-area congressman spoke to “60 Minutes” about the NRCC’s fundraising demands.  

During an interview on the news program, Jolly said party officials told him he needed to raise $18,000 a day.  

The political committee shot back that no such meeting took place, according to Politico , calling Jolly’s claim a “work of fiction.”  

That led to further escalation of the war of words between the two sides, with a Jolly spokesman threatening to name the names of participants in the meeting.  

Tension could boil over as he seeks to run for re-election now.  

“If you want somebody to help you,” Westmoreland said, “then you got to be willing to help that person.”  

Contact Roarty at alexroarty@cqrollcall.com and follow him on Twitter @Alex_Roarty

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