The Washington Post

Why 13 really is the unluckiest number for Democrats

This is probably the last time this year you will read about Florida's 13th congressional district in this space this year. Why? Because what once was a battleground looks today like a gimme for Republicans.

Somewhere, Republican Rep. David Jolly, above, is smiling. (Brian Blanco/ Reuters)

Six months ago, the Tampa-area swing district looked like a plum pickup opportunity for Democrats. Three months ago it looked like the site of a potential political revival for a party beset by an unpopular health-care law. Today, it just looks like political wreckage.

Political newcomer Ed Jany (D) abruptly ended his campaign in the 13th district on Tuesday, less than two weeks after he launched it. For Democrats who rallied around Jany in a purple area where they vowed to compete this fall after a disappointing special election loss in March, it was only the latest in a string of let-downs.

Things were looking up late last year when former state chief financial officer Alex Sink (D) jumped into an open race for the seat long held by C.W. Bill Young, a Republican who passed away. Sink was a capable fundraiser with high name recognition who was launching a campaign as Republicans were licking their wounds on the heels of a government shutdown many people blamed them for causing.

It got even better for Sink when top Republicans declined to enter the race. Her eventual opponent would be David Jolly, a former Washington lobbyist many Republicans regarded as a second-tier candidate.

But Sink had to deal with fallout from the problematic rollout of Obamacare. Suddenly, an underfunded Jolly wasn't looking so second tier. Democratic and Republican groups spent millions ahead of the March special election. Jolly won.

Democrats said they would regroup and give it another try in the fall. After all, they argued, the electorate would be more favorable for them. When Sink declined to run again, close observers were left to wonder who would jump in against Jolly.

Their question was answered on May 2.

Ed Jany, a retired Army Marine Corps colonel jumped into the race on the last day of qualifying. Local and national Democrats rallied around him. Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.) said that "in a few short days," Jany's campaign had "already generated enthusiasm among Pinellas County voters." The committee even added the 13th district race to its "Emerging Races" category.

Jany's campaign apparently wasn't built to last. The Tampa Bay Times published a detailed report Saturday citing inconsistencies  between the educational background Jany had claimed and the education he actually received.

Three days later, it was all over for Jany. Citing an inability to balance his professional responsibilities with his campaign, he called it quits on the latter.

"In my professional capacity, I am responsible for coordinating some of the Command and Control for Security at the World Cup in Brazil this year, something I committed to doing some time ago. I wrongly assumed that I could maintain my professional work requirements while running for office," Jany said.

And so it ended for Democrats, too. Now they are now left without a standard-bearer in a district that President Obama narrowly won in 2012.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.

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