Updated 2:48 p.m. | Democrats have landed a last-minute recruit, Col. Ed Jany, a registered Democrat, to challenge Rep. David Jolly, R-Fla., this fall.
The party recruited Jany to run after Jolly won a high-profile special election in Florida's competitive 13th District earlier this spring.
However, in a strange twist, Jany will not appear on the ballot on the Democratic party line because he just registered as a Democrat last fall — switching from the GOP. Because of the “Charlie Crist Rule,” as one party strategist called it, or “Sore Loser Law,” a candidate must be registered with a party a year before filing for office from that same party.
Since Jany falls short of that requirement, he must run as a Non-Party Affiliated candidate in the general election. "An American hero, Colonel Jany’s service, independence and proven ability to bring people together to get results is exactly what’s missing from the broken politics of Washington," Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel said minutes after the Florida filing deadline lapsed on Friday.
Jany's campaign clarified the ballot issue in a campaign news release:
"Colonel Jany is required by this restrictive law to run as an NPA candidate in Florida's 13th Congressional District, and is doing so with the full backing of the Democratic Party."That’s why it was critical that the Rev. Manuel Sykes (or any other Democrat) not get into the race. There would have been an official Democratic nominee that could divide the general-election vote with Jany.
It did seem particularly over the top when the Tampa Bay Times reported that the Pinellas County Democratic chairman left a voice mail for Sykes calling him “persona non grata” if he ran. But now that threat makes a little more sense since Democrats are trying to do more than simply avoid a primary.
It appears that Democratic strategists succeeded in keeping the Democratic line clear in the general election. According to a March 28 memo from Florida Bureau of Election Records Chief Kristi Reid Bronson, "Qualifying will be held from Noon, April 28, 2014 - Noon, May 2, 2014, for all U.S. House of Representatives candidates, including write-in candidates."
Still, there is a lot of uncertainty in the race — from Jany’s first-time candidacy to the ballot craziness to the national environment.
A spokeswoman for the the National Republican Congressional Committee characterized the situation as a "humongous recruitment fail."
"After losing all of their top recruits thanks to President Obama's toxic agenda, they are now stuck with a candidate who couldn't even run as a Democrat because he didn't register in time," NRCC spokeswoman Katie Prill said. "This is truly embarrassing for Washington Democrats."
Jolly won a special election in March to succeed the late Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Fla. President Barack Obama won the district in 2012 with 50 percent, and the race was considered a tossup as an open seat.
A Democratic operative not affiliated with the DCCC tells CQ Roll Call that the committee conducted polling with Jany's name and were pleased with the results. CQ Roll Call was not able to obtain the poll to verify these comments.
At least two prominent Democrats, special election nominee Alex Sink and attorney Jessica Ehrlich, passed on challenging Jolly in November.