ST. PETERSBURG — With little more than a week remaining before the Congressional District 13 Republican primary, candidates David Jolly, Kathleen Peters and Mark Bircher are making their final pitches as early voting already has begun.
Building name recognition and distinguishing themselves on the issues has been tough for the three contenders, who have had a fraction of the time candidates get in normal election cycles.
Despite extensive news coverage, campaign mailers, TV spots, Web ads and front yard signs, the candidates and their positions remain unfamiliar to many voters. Here’s a rundown of things each has said about the Affordable Care Act, the Federal Flood Insurance Program, veterans’ issues and federal spending:
A 41-year-old lawyer, consultant and former legal counsel to Rep. C.W. “Bill” Young
On the Affordable Care Act. “My political philosophy is one that always favors the private sector, and I’m unapologetic about that,” he has said. “I also, though, am somebody that understands that, at the end of the day, there is a safety net that only the government can provide,” adding that some form of care should be available for vulnerable parts of the population that can’t afford it.
On federal flood insurance. “The first thing we do, only because it’s the most attainable, is we delay the Biggert-Waters Act, but at the same time that’s not the answer,” Jolly said. “A bad law today is a bad law four years from now.” The Biggert-Waters Act would cause huge increases in insurance premiums for many homeowners. Jolly said he favors a national natural disaster insurance program, which would cover such things as floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires.
On curbing government spending. “Economic growth is the only way we can get to a balanced budget in five years because Washington has so outspent its means. To retract that quickly simply with cuts, I think, would have a crippling effect on our economy,” he said.
State Rep. Kathleen Peters
A 52-year-old former South Pasadena mayor and city commissioner
On the Affordable Care Act. “What I can tell you is that we don’t like the plan that we currently have to take care of affordable health care,” Peters has said. “I don’t even think they named it appropriately. I think that it’s more of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. ... I do not think that we should take a stand and say absolutely repeal it, not unless we have a plan and a proposal to replace it.”
On federal flood insurance. “Florida’s gotten hit harder than anyone else. Pinellas County is getting hit worse than anyone else in the country,” she said, adding businesses must be included. “It’s got to be one that stops across the board. Protect those mom and pop businesses and the small businesses that can’t afford it.” Peters also said she would be open to handing flood insurance reform down to the states.
On curbing government spending. “If families, businesses, cities and states have to live within their means, so should Washington,” Peters said in a written statement. “The federal deficit must be reduced. Our children and grandchildren deserve a future where they are not burdened with massive debt. In Congress, I will work to secure that future. I believe we must lower taxes, lower spending, reduce the size and scope of government and enact pro-growth policies.”
A 60-year-old commercial airline pilot, lawyer and retired Marine Corps brigadier general
On the Affordable Care Act. Bircher has repeatedly called the law unconstitutional and has said he favors immediate repeal. “I would bring it to the free market, and the venue where the constitution says it’s required, right here in the state of Florida, and we’d figure it out,” he said, but added he did not know what should replace it. “I’m not a doctor,” he said. “I want to do what’s best, so I would, instead of a government bureaucrat telling me, I would go to a medical professional say, ‘What’s the way ahead? How can we deliver what we want to for the community?’”
On federal flood insurance. “Only Washington can come up with a plan that goes along, and the legacy is $25 billion in debt, and going to a homeowner and saying, ‘Your rate went from $1,700 to $7,000,’” he said. “I do not think the federal government has a role in this, except for the Corps of Engineers to support the state in doing the geodetic surveys so we know actually where the flooding is. The solution is at the local level, where the interest is greatest.”
On curbing government spending. “My major tactic would be to return [to the states] all those functions that do not require uniformity,” he said. “I think for every dollar we send to Washington to serve a purpose here — education, health care, all the rest of it — we get something back that looks smaller than a dollar. We may not even get our dollar back. If we sent it to Tallahassee — if we decide that there needs to be a state level — it will be a bigger dollar.”