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Florida’s 13th Congressional District’s Special Election Debate, in Review

News & Politics

On February 3rd, Bays News 9 and the Tampa Bay Times hosted a debate between the candidates running for the late Rep. C.W. Bill Young’s vacant Congressional seat. The candidates participating were: Republican David Jolly, former general counsel to Rep. Young, Democrat Alex Sink, former Chief Financial Officer for the State of Florida, and former gubernatorial candidate, and Libertarian candidate Lucas Overby. The special election will take place on March 11th. The winner will have to run again in the mid-term elections this fall. Here is a summary of the action:


(R) David Jolly supports a full repeal of Obamacare. After the debate I asked him if he thought a full repeal would be feasible now that Obamacare has already been implemented? In his answer, he reiterated his contempt for the law and said, “Yes. However hard it is to repeal it, we have to.” As a replacement for Obamacare he offered the idea of health insurance plans modeled after term life insurance—multistate plans that could not be canceled and lasted a specific number of years.

(L) Lucas Overby supports the consumer protection aspects of Obamacare, but does not support the individual mandate. He’s proposing getting health care costs down through deregulation and a more free market.

(D) Alex Sink supports the Affordable Care Act, but says that the law has “not been perfect by any stretch of the imagination.” She went on to state that a repeal would be catastrophically detrimental to the people that have received insurance from Obamacare. She also said that she is in favor of a repeal of the medical device tax, which taxes medical device manufacturers at a rate of 2.3%.


(R) David Jolly does not support immigration reform that contains a pathway to citizenship. He said, “We are a loving and caring nation, but we are also a nation of laws, and it is important that those who have broken the law recognize that.”

(L) Lucas Overby supports a pathway to citizenship. He fully supports the Senate’s immigration bill, except for the spending measures that pertain to border safety. He says that they are not cost-effective and border safety can be achieved in a cheaper manner.

(D) Alex Sink supports the Senate immigration bill that contains a pathway to citizenship. She stated that the current immigration policy is unfair.

Social Security

(R) David Jolly said, “We have to guarantee the benefits promised to current beneficiaries, and anybody who is vested” (Worked for ten years). He believes that long-term entitlement reform is the only way to reach a balanced budget.

(L) Lucas Overby stated that we need to “find a way to decrease the amount that we’re putting out without forcing people to give up the benefits that they already paid for.” He cites possible solutions like a voluntary dropout for Social Security recipients.

(D) Alex Sink pledged to fight to protect social security. She cited the importance of the program and reiterated its value.

According to an annual report by the Social Security administration, social security will—barring any unexpected factors—be solvent until 2035. Essentially, the program is on pretty solid financial footing, and only needs minor tweaks to make it indefinitely solvent.

Medical Marijuana

(R) David Jolly stated that he does not support the legalization of medical marijuana.

(L) Lucas Overby said that he does.

(D) Alex Sink said, “I support the idea of medical marijuana, but I am not going to support a constitutional amendment if it provides for pot shops on every corner of Florida.”

According to the Miami Herald, 7 in 10 Floridians support the legalization of medical marijuana. Historically, medical marijuana-related ballot initiatives have increased election turnout among young people. Thusly, the candidate’s respective positions on pot could prove tremendously important in the second congressional election of the year this fall.

Minimum wage

(R) David Jolly supports indexing the minimum wage to inflation. This would cause the minimum wage to rise and fall with spending power. Ironically, this is quite the progressive notion. It’s a notion that Obama called for in his 2013 State of the Union speech. Jolly’s position on this issue was definitely the surprise of the night, and one that could do well for him politically going forward.

(L) Lucas Overby does not support an increase in the minimum wage.

(D) Alex Sink supports an increase of the minimum wage.

Foreign Policy

(R) David Jolly supported a military intervention in Syria. After the debate he told me that when Assad used chemical weapons on his own people Obama “looked the other way. That’s not leadership.” He told me that he does not support military intervention for its own sake, but that “we are either the world’s lone superpower, or we’re not.” When I asked him about the recent US-Iran nuclear deal he said “it was an insult to Israel, I think what Obama did by essentially negotiating with Iran, was he gave legitimacy to Rouhani that Ahmadinejad never had.”

(L) Lucas Overby does not support a military intervention in Syria. He said that killing more Syrians would not solve anything. On the Iran nuclear deal, he told me that he was, “very happy that the administration was going forward with sensible nuclear negotiations.” He went on to say that “sanctions have never proven to do anything but hurt the actual people, they do nothing against the governments themselves.”

(D) Alex Sink does not support an intervention in Syria and stated that she doesn’t want to put our soldiers at risk in another war where we don’t necessarily understand the conflict.


As far as who won the debate, I think Lucas Overby did a good job of showing himself to be spontaneous and unlike a politician. He seemed to be the middle ground between Sink and Jolly. David Jolly was charismatic and assertive. He will likely do well among the more character-driven voters. As far as losers go, I think Alex Sink seemed uneasy on the stage. She seemed surprised by some of Jolly’s positions and was often on the defensive. She didn’t lose by much, but I do foresee a small drop in the polls.

On March 11th, we will decide on who will represent us in Congress. This election could prove to be pivotal one—not just for Pinellas County—but also as a barometer of national opinion going into the midterms this fall.

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