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ST. PETERSBURG, Florida (WTSP) - For more than two decades, David Jolly has kept silent about a 1989 accident that he says challenged his faith.

But on Monday, the Congressional hopeful talked exclusively with 10 News about his role in a fatal accident along Bruce B. Downs.

"It was a tragedy that occurred when I was a child," Jolly said. "I was 16 years old."

Jolly was driving home with a friend from a movie one night when he said he hit a man walking in the road.

The man, Blair Warren Ropes of Zephyrhills, died.

Jolly said Ropes' motorcycle had broken down.

"It took several years for me to get to a place of peace, but not something anybody would ever get over," Jolly said.

10 News learned about the fatal accident through a tip, and Jolly questioned the motive. Why would someone bring up the incident 25 years later during a hotly contested political race?

"I don't know who has pushed this story, but I believe it to be a heartless individual who has clearly never lost anyone close to them or experienced such a tragedy," he said.

Jolly was not cited for the accident, adding he was "exonerated of any culpability."

In fact, Jolly said he stopped after the crash, then rushed to get help and returned to the scene.

"I'll be honest, for several years it challenged my faith. I questioned how such things could happen, but tragedy occurs."

Jolly told 10 News the only reason he agreed to speak about the accident was to make sure Ropes was respected and not dishonored.

"Honestly ... for someone to bring this up 25 years later in a political campaign dishonors both Blair and (his girlfriend) Sandra and their families and their heartbreak, and it disrespects what ultimately is a human tragedy that no one should ever have to experience."

Jolly, a Republican, faces Democrat Alex Sink and Libertarian Lucas Overby on March 11th in an election to replace Congressman C.W. Bill Young. The three candidates are holding a debate in Clearwater on Tuesday morning.

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