Former Rep. David Jolly, ousted by Democrat Charlie Crist just two and half months ago, hasn’t yet decided to run for office again. But in a sign that the Florida Republican may be gearing up for a rematch in the 13th District, Jolly has hired a Crist staffer as a senior adviser for the 2018 cycle.
Vito Sheeley worked as campaign outreach director for Crist’s congressional campaign and district director for the congressman for the 115th Congress, which has only been in session for about three weeks.
“As senior adviser to Mr. Jolly, I look forward to continuing to listen to the needs and concerns of Pinellas County. I thank Congressman Jolly for recognizing my value to him and his team,” Sheeley said in a statement sent out Monday afternoon by Jolly’s spokesman.
Crist, a former Republican governor of the Sunshine State, isn’t the only Democrat Sheely has worked for. The staffer, whose Facebook profile picture is a photo of former President Barack Obama, also recently worked as outreach coordinator for Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor in the neighboring 14th District.
The Tampa Bay Times reported Monday that Sheeley had considered leaving Crist’s office to join the re-election campaign of St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, a Democrat.
The hire is a bizarre move for Jolly, who lost re-election by 4 points in November. He made an eleventh-hour decision last summer to seek re-election, dropping an earlier bid for the Senate after GOP Sen. Marco Rubio reversed course and announced he’d run again.
Hillary Clinton won Florida’s 13th District by 3 points, according to Daily Kos Elections. The district was redrawn last cycle to lean more Democratic.
During his time in the House, Jolly frustrated many of his fellow Republicans, who believed he didn’t show much loyalty to those who helped get him elected in a 2014 special election.
For his 2016 campaigns, Jolly pledged not to directly solicit money, raising alarm among Republicans that he was putting the district in jeopardy. He exacerbated an already tense relationship with the National Republican Congressional Committee in a “60 Minutes” episode where he criticized what he said were onerous fundraising demands. The NRCC disputed Jolly’s characterization of those demands and did not financially assist his re-election efforts.
Jolly hasn’t said he’s running for Congress again. “While I have made no decision whether to pursue elective office in 2018, I am committed to continuing our important policy work of the last three years,” Jolly said in a Monday statement.
“As Laura and I consider what is best for our family and our community in 2018, I am thrilled to have Vito Sheeley join our political team. Through my years working with Vito in Pinellas, I know him to be an honorable man, dedicated to our community, and a trusted adviser on how best to represent and serve Pinellas County and the state of Florida,” the former congressman said.