Sink Jolly Well Sank

sink jollyRepublican Jolly defeated Democrat Sink on Tuesday. So what? Why should anyone in Maine care who wins Florida’s 13th congressional district seat?

In truth the only people in our state who care are people who pay attention to politics. That’s a minority of our citizens, a slightly larger minority of citizens eligible to vote, and a still larger minority of citizens actually registered to vote. There’s no doubt in my mind that Maine’s registered voters who follow politics and find them interesting are enormously outnumbered by registered voters who find the Red Sox interesting and follow their fortunes closely. If you doubt it, ask around and see for yourself.

Some people who follow politics are critical of these sports fans for their skewed priorities. I am not among them. Interest is subjective. It can’t directed by logic. Even if you can persuade a person that politics are more important than baseball, you can’t persuade them to find politics more interesting. If you never developed an interest in such matters they will appear boring if not downright repulsive.

David Jolly is a Republican who speaks the dialect called conservatism, so his victory gives me a pleasure shared by people with similar political inclinations. Part of this pleasure, a big part, is identical with the pleasure BoSoxers experience when their team defeats the Devils (which for them is not a New Jersey hockey team, but the New York baseball team). People are reluctant to admit it but the “sports team spirit” really is a major source of political engagement and excitement.

Jolly is a lobbyist who divorced his wife to take up with a girlfriend people refer to as his ‘child bride,’ and who killed someone in an auto accident decades ago. He has a life-time membership in the Washington Insiders’ Club. In Florida he announced that his victory was about the people of Pinellas County. On Fox News he discussed its national implications. This is not a man upon whom conservatives can repose much trust.

Plainly, it was the Democrat’s defeat, not the Republican’s victory, that inspires enthusiasm among conservatives. A January column by Stuart Rothenberg, one of the four or five most influential political analysts, explains the phenomenon. “It’s rare in politics that anything other than a presidential contest is viewed as a “must win” — but the special election in Florida’s 13th District falls into that category for Democrats.”

The Democrats nominated Alex Sink. Her late husband, Bill McBride, was the unsuccessful Democratic nominee for governor in 2002. Alex was elected Florida’s chief financial officer in 2006. She ran for governor in 2010 and lost by a margin of one percent state-wide, while winning the 13th District by 2 percent. She must have gained 100% name recognition, while Jolly labored in the shadows where congressional staffers and lobbyists dwell.

In Rothenberg’s view “A loss… would almost certainly be regarded by dispassionate observers as a sign that President Barack Obama could constitute an albatross around the neck of his party’s nominees in November. And that could make it more difficult for Democratic candidates, campaign committees and interest groups to raise money and energize the grass roots.”

Alex Sink lost despite all her advantages, despite a more efficient Democratic get-out-the-vote effort and despite a huge cash advantage.

David Axelrod, a key Obama aide, is not a dispassionate observer, but he believes that problems with Obamacare “motivated the Republican base” while moderates supported Sink’s position for “mending not ending” Obamacare. He doesn’t believe his party must stick with the Obamadisaster. In his opinion “The notion that Democrats can just walk away from that position, that never ever works. So we’re going to have to fight it out on that issue.”

When pressed for an explanation during her campaign of how she proposed to mend the health insurance legislation, Alex Sink had no answer. Axelrod was no clearer on how he thought his party was going to motivate its base.

It’s too early to anticipate how Obama’s “Affordable Care Act” will effect Maine’s election this year, but it’s notable that our Republican senators voted against it while our Democratic representatives voted for it.. Mike Michaud, now aiming for the Blaine House, may be the only congressmammal to claim he read the whole thing before voting for it. This might hurt him in November, if anyone actually believes him.

Floida’s 13th District resembles Maine. Its population is elderly and a majority of its voters stuck with a moderate Republican congressman for decades until he died in office, necessitating last week’s special election.

About the Author

John Frary
John Frary

Professor John Frary of Farmington, Maine, is a former US Congress candidate and retired history professor, a Board Member of Maine Taypayers United and an associate editor of the International Military Encyclopedia, and can be reached at

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