U.S. Rep. David Jolly is dropping his bid for the U.S. Senate and will run for re-election.
"Without a political rally, without a lot of fanfare, I have a simple request of my neighbors and of my community," Jolly said. "Today, I’m asking my community simply for the opportunity to keep doing my job."
Jolly made the announcement Friday at Clearwater Aviation. The Indian Shores Republican will likely face former Florida Governor Charlie Crist in the race for the 13th Congressional District.
Jolly said redistricting made the seat more favorable to Democrats and it's now possibly the most challenging district of any incumbent Republican in the U.S. House this year.
"In a very expensive media market, against a very qualified candidate in Charlie Crist who has shown he can win races," Jolly said. "So, I am not naïve with the challenge we are undertaking. And I don’t know where the polls are. And I don’t really care. Because I actually think if I keep doing my job right the politics will take care of itself."
Within hours of Jolly's announcement, Crist sent an email to supporters seeking donations stating,"We are now being challenged by a well-funded former Washington lobbyist," referring to Jolly.
About a dozen demonstrators stood outside the security gate at the St. Petersburg Clearwater Airport where Jolly made his announcement. They held hand-painted signs protesting 13 congressional votes where Jolly opposed limiting the sale of assault weapons.
“He (Jolly) opposed bills that would have limited the very weapons that this (Orlando Shooting) terrorist and this murderer used. He only bought them two weeks ago,” said Ellen Floriana. “If he had voted the right way on past gun legislation, maybe this guy wouldn’t have gotten those weapons.”
The incumbent Republican anticipated such criticisms and addressed his past votes and current legislative proposal to curb weapon sales to people on the No Fly List.
"If you're on a No Fly List, if you're on a Terror Watch List, you should not be allowed to purchase a firearm," Jolly said. "However, if you're an American citizen, you should be made aware you are on the list and how you came to be on that list."
His legislation proposes that the government does not have to tell American citizens if they're on a "list." However, if an individual is denied purchase of a firearm or plane ticket, the federal government would be required to notify the individual within 10 days that they were denied because they're on a watch list.
His provision would allow the citizen to appeal before a federal judge in a private hearing with some limits.
Jolly's decision to drop out of the Senate race comes after days of rumors that incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio will change his mind and seek re-election. Jolly entered the race last year after Rubio announced he would run for president.
"I've believed for weeks that Sen. Rubio will get in. It is not based on actual information. It is simply based on where I believe where his heart's leading him, where his decision's leading him," Jolly said. "I would anticipate he may get in as early as Monday but that's a decision for Marco Rubio."
Leading Republicans have encouraged Rubio to run again, and this week, following the shootings at an Orlando nightclub, Rubio told reporters he was considering it. Candidates have until next Friday, June 24, to qualify for the primary ballot.
Four other candidates are seeking the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis have both indicated they would pull out of the race if Rubio runs. Home builder Carlos Beruff and businessman Todd Wilcox have said they would continue running.
The winner will face the winner of the Democratic primary that pits U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy against U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson.