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Former GOP rep says independents key to Democrats, Republicans expanding majorities 

david jolly
FILE – In this Oct. 20, 2015 photo, U.S. Rep. David Jolly, R-Fla., speaks to media after showing up at a news conference for former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

Former Rep. David Jolly, who served in the House as a Republican but later left the party to become an independent, said Friday that non-affiliated voters are the only key bloc that would help Democrats and Republicans expand their majorities.

“Here’s the carrot I would offer to either party and in some ways, I offer it to the Democratic Party today because it seems they’re more likely to grab it,” said Jolly. “You could expand your coalition by 5 or 10 points and create a governing coalition for the next 30 years, simply by inviting in much of those independents who today feel disaffected.” 

“Grab them, invite them in, make them a part of your coalition with deliberation, and you’ll create a governing coalition that represents the consensus of America,” Jolly said during The Hill’s A More Perfect Union event.  

Jolly declared himself an independent in 2018 after his House term ended. He said that divisive incentives make it difficult for politicians to reach independents and moderates.

“The incentive for an elected official is to operate within your most partisan environment,” said Jolly. “If you do what I did while I was in Congress and step out and compromise or take more moderate positions, you get challenged in the primary and your base doesn’t show up in the general.”

Jolly’s comments came on the same day Arizona Sen. Krysten Sinema rocked Washington by announcing she was leaving the Democratic Party to be an Independent the same week the party secured 51 votes in the chamber.

Sinema’s move left unclear whether she would caucus with Democrats as do Independent Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Angus King (I-Maine).

Jolly also said such a hyper partisan environment has only made it more difficult for lawmakers to work together in a bipartisan fashion since he’s left office.  

“There is no working across the aisle, zero,” said Jolly. “Now the way the system is set up, if a leader does reach across the aisle as we saw with [former Speaker John] Boehner and perhaps, [House Majority Leader Kevin] McCarthy may have to do now, there’s punishment within their own ranks for doing so.”  

Jolly said that electoral reforms like the widespread adoption of a rank choice voting system could help alleviate the incentives for lawmakers to behave in a hyper partisan manner. Jolly specifically pointed to Alaska as an example of the benefits of a rank choice system. 

“If we were to have some radical electoral reform, like in Alaska, you might see voters elect a statewide Republican in [Sen.] Lisa Murkowski and a statewide Democrat as their new House member and do so on the same ballot,” said Jolly. 

“It gives everybody a voice regardless of your party affiliation and it forces candidates to respond to broader coalition’s,” he added.

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