Ex-opponent says GOP 'weakened' with Jolly as nominee

Florida House Republican candidate David Jolly is still taking hits from his former opponent, state Rep. Kathleen Peters, the day after he defeated her in the special GOP primary.

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Peters, who came in second in the primary for the late Rep. Bill Young's (R-Fla.) seat, told the Tampa Bay Times she spoke with Jolly after the race was called but was still “concerned” about his candidacy, and she felt the party was “weakened” with him as the nominee because of his lobbying background.

"I'm concerned with just the job that he's had — not that it's a bad job, it's just that, how that's going to, I think, weigh heavily on the voters, to have a lobbyist who represents special interests, to now say that they're going to represent the people and be able to separate that,” she said.

She added: “Is there going to be trust there? That's been my concern all along, and that's where I think we're going to be weakened.”

Peters suggested the impression of Jolly that Democrats are pushing, that he’s beholden to special interests, might already be solidified and that he needs to “step up” and reassure voters "that he can make that shift and that transition to truly represent the people of Pinellas County and their interests and their agenda versus a special interest agenda."

Jolly is facing Democrat Alex Sink in the general election and enters the race at a significant financial disadvantage. Both candidates went on air with positive spots on Wednesday, but GOP outside groups have expressed a reluctance to back Jolly, while Democratic groups are expected to go all-in for Sink.

Peters’ criticism echoes that of other Republicans in the district, as many haven’t seen him as the strongest possible contender to take on Sink. And it indicates that, even in the general election, Jolly might have trouble coalescing GOP support behind him, which could complicate the party's chances at holding onto the seat.