Fact-checking Florida’s swing-district congressional race

Republican David Jolly, left, will face Democrat Alex Sink in a March special election to represent Florida's 13th district in Congress.
Republican David Jolly, left, will face Democrat Alex Sink in a March special election to represent Florida's 13th district in Congress.

A swing district in a swing state in March has all eyes on Florida, with politics junkies wondering if the race will predict broader results for November’s election.

The race is for the U.S. House of Representatives for Florida’s 13th Congressional District, home to the city of St. Petersburg and surrounding Pinellas County on the Gulf Coast. The seat was formerly held for more than 40 years by the late Rep. C.W. Bill Young, who died in October.

Republican primary voters went to the polls on Tuesday and selected David Jolly as their general election candidate. Democrats cleared the field for Alex Sink, the state’s former chief financial officer and a 2010 candidate for governor. (She lost to Gov. Rick Scott.)

Jolly on the Truth-O-Meter

Jolly was a longtime Young aide who finished his service as the congressman’s general counsel in 2007. Jolly then became a lobbyist, eventually opening his own firm. Earlier this year, he deregistered as a lobbyist to run for Young’s vacant House seat.

PolitiFact Florida has fact-checked Jolly’s statements twice during the primary campaign.

Jolly accused his Republican opponent, state Rep. Kathleen Peters, of refusing "to ‘take a stand’ to repeal Obamacare." Actually, Peters said she didn’t support the law, but thought protections for people with pre-existing conditions needed to be continued. We rated his statement Mostly False.

Jolly also refuted claims that he had lobbied for offshore oil drilling, a controversial issue for Floridians concerned about protecting beaches. Jolly said he "never lobbied for offshore oil drilling," but a federal disclosure statement showed that he did. Jolly said he attended one meeting on the issue, but that does meet the technical definition of lobbying. We rated his statement Mostly False.

Sink on the Truth-O-Meter

Sink has more ratings than Jolly on PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter, mostly due to her 2010 statewide run for governor.

Nine of her statements earned a True rating, including her claims about BP oil spill payouts and Scott’s position on offshore oil drilling (he favored it).

Three of Sink’s statements have been rated Mostly False or False. During the governor’s race, she opined there was not enough attention paid to Medicaid fraud cases that happened on the Republicans’ watch. "Nobody has been talking about it, focused on it, or paying attention to it," she said Actually, both the press and public officials paid significant attention to the issue, including public hearings and proposed legislation. Truth-O-Meter verdict: False.  

She never earned a Pants on Fire.