PINELLAS PARK, Fla. -- There are a lot of differences between the three Republicans running for U.S. House here in the 13th district. But on at least one point, they are aligned: None will commit to voting for another term for John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) as speaker of the House.
In interviews, each of the GOP candidates for the seat long held by late Rep. C.W. "Bill" Young (R) refused to say whether they would vote for or against the Republican leader.
"I think it's premature. I'm not a member of Congress," said David Jolly (R), a former lobbyist and aide to Young. "I can tell you this: I have enormous respect for the job that John Bohener's done. He's had an incredibly difficult job."
State Rep. Kathleen Peters (R) said that while she is "impressed" with Boehner's staff, she "cannot commit a vote to anyone until I get to know them and their leadership a little bit better."
Retired Marine Corps Brigadier General Mark Bircher, who is backed by former congressman Allen West (R-Fla.), said he needs to learn more about Boehner and that it's "too hypothetical" for him to decide at this point.
"I'm too ignorant on that question right now," he said.
GOP voters will select their nominee on Tuesday. The winner will face Alex Sink, who is unopposed for the Democratic nomination. The election will be March 11.
In some Republican primaries, candidates distance themselves from Boehner from the right. To wit: the recent special election in Alabama's 1st district. But this Gulf Coast district west of Tampa is hardly tea party territory. And Young, who is revered here, mostly governed as a moderate Republican.
Boehner's national unpopularity may help explain the way Republicans here have positioned themselves. It may also be the case that they did not want to appear too partisan for fear of being pigeonholed ahead of the general election in this centrist-heavy area.
Whatever the explanation, it's probably safe to say that Boehner won't be appearing on the stump here anytime soon.