Voters in Florida Head to Polls to Replace Late Rep. Bill Young in Primary

A bitter primary divides the GOP but gives Democrats a leg up in Florida swing district.

Republican David Jolly thanks supporters during a campaign rally Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla.

David Jolly won the Republican primary in Florida's 13th Congressional District Tuesday night.

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The Republican intraparty squabble to replace the late Rep. Bill Young will finally end Tuesday as voters head to the polls in Florida's 13th district.

The contentious three-way primary among state Rep. Kathleen Peters, former Marine Brig. Gen. Mark Bircher and David Jolly, a lobbyist and former staffer for the late congressman, has divided the GOP in the district and may make it easier for Democrat Alex Sink, the former chief financial officer for the state of Florida, to capture the swing seat in the general election, which is scheduled for March 13.

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According to reports, Young's wife Beverly has said her husband advocated that Jolly replace him when he died, but Young's son, Bill Young Jr., has endorsed Peters, unleashing a messy back-and-forth as voters are tasked with replacing a 22-term congressman. Jolly has outraised Peters more than 2-to-1 and Bircher 6-to-1 according to campaign finance reports and maintains an 11-point lead over Bircher and 13-point lead over Peters heading into Election Day.

A separate poll conducted by Gravis Marketing found that Jolly already has a 21-point lead among those who cast their ballots early.

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The primary has been plagued with personal jabs over Jolly's history as a lobbyist where he advocated for Republican and Democratic lawmakers. Jolly has attacked Peters for her position on the Affordable Care Act, which she maintains must be repealed, but not until Republicans come up with a viable alternative. Bircher got a late start in the race, but earned the endorsement of former Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., who sent out mailers on his behalf.

Adding to the intrigue of the primary, news reports surfaced from the Tampa Bay Times earlier this month that Young had divorced his first wife and his family and rarely acknowledged their existence as he started a new family with his secretary, whom he married. The report has caused some to question Jolly's own ethics, as he worked closely with the congressman.


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