Lobbyist David Jolly has defeated two GOP rivals to win his party's nomination in the race to replace the late Rep. C.W. Bill Young in Florida's 13th District. His victory officially kicks off a high-stakes contest in one of Democrats' top pickup opportunities of the cycle.
Jolly had 45 percent of the vote, with 96 precincts reporting, when The Associated Press called the race on Tuesday evening. State Rep. Kathleen Peters came in second with 31 percent, and Mark Bircher rounded out the pack with 24 percent.
Jolly will face former state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink in the March 11 general election in this St. Petersburg-based district. This special election marks the first truly competitive special election of the cycle, and many political insiders view it as a bellwether for the cycle.
Peters' loss will mark a disappointment for a small but determined group of House Republican women who hoped that this race would add another female to their conference.
But ultimately Jolly ran the more organized campaign. He raised more money than Peters and outspent her on television.
Sink, the lone serious Democratic candidate in the race, coasted to her nomination.
The race is rated Tossup by the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.
Young died in October.