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Florida Special-Election Sprint Starts

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo
The primary race to replace Young, above, is heating up, with the congressman’s widow endorsing Jolly and the congressman’s son endorsing Peters.

“I’m a Pinellas County insider versus a Washington insider,” she said of Jolly. Peters is both a legislator and a former mayor.

Peters started the race at a strategic disadvantage. Jolly spent the first few weeks of his campaign raising money and securing local endorsements. By the time Peters announced her bid, hours before the filing deadline last week, Jolly had raised more than $150,000. He expects to raise $750,000 over the course of the primary.

Peters’ camp said she raised about $100,000 in her first week of campaigning. She said she hopes to raise about $300,000 for the primary.

Both candidates did agree on one item — their criticism of Sink. They have quickly hammered her as a carpetbagger who only moved to the district after Young died and the seat opened.

But even top Republicans, such as Davis, concede Sink is a quality recruit — one of the reasons the race will shift to national issues after the primary.

“I think Alex Sink’s biggest problem right now is not Alex Sink or what the research book says,” Republican pollster Brock McCleary said. “It’s Obamacare.”

A former chief financial officer for the state, Sink narrowly lost her bid for Florida governor in 2010. Her husband, Bill McBride, who died in December 2012, was the Democratic nominee for governor in 2002.

Sink has never worked on Capitol Hill, which will make it harder for Republicans to criticize her on national issues such as the health care law, according to Pinellas County Democratic Chairman Mark Hanisee.

“You can’t attack someone who hasn’t been in Washington,” he said of Sink and Obamacare.

But the GOP will almost certainly try, which is why so much is at stake for Republicans in the contest.

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