- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 4, 2014

MIAMI (AP) - Popular former Gov. Jeb Bush is playing a starring role in a high-stakes Florida congressional election.

He appears in a new TV ad to help Republican David Jolly in the race to fill the seat of the late Rep. Bill Young. The spot is funded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and begins airing Tuesday in Florida’s 13th Congressional District, which includes the St. Petersburg area.

Bush, also a Republican, says in the ad that Jolly knows how to “get things done” in a dysfunctional Washington. Jolly is locked in a tight race with Democrat Alex Sink in the swing-voting district.

The chamber ad is the latest addition to a multimillion-dollar ad war being financed by both political parties and outside groups in advance of the March 11 special election.

As the first major matchup in advance of this year’s midterm elections, the contest is shaping up to be the proving ground for political arguments Republicans and Democrats hope will resonate with moderate voters. The outcome could serve as an early indicator of the 2014 political climate.

Republicans are blistering Sink over the disastrous launch of Obama’s health care law. Democrats are tying Jolly to the far-right wing of the GOP, which helped trigger a government shutdown last year.

While Young kept the seat in Republican hands for more than four decades, the younger, more racially diverse population of St. Petersburg has helped make the region swing-voting territory. Voters in the district backed former President George W. Bush in 2004 before narrowly supporting Barack Obama twice.

The National Republican Congressional Committee is spending more than $200,000 on television ads opposing Sink, in addition to three Republican groups that are plowing $1.2 million into the race. Democrats, meanwhile, have reserved more than $2.5 million in advertising, mostly aimed at criticizing Jolly’s time as a lobbyist.

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