Sink & Jolly clash over Social Security & climate change in second debate of campaign



Pity the CD13 voter who is undecided going into the special congressional election taking place in two weeks. So far there's only been one televised debate during this campaign. MSNBC wanted to broadcast this morning's 90-minute forum hosted by the Clearwater Chamber of Commerce, but Alex Sink said no, opting not to change the original format. Meanwhile, rows of seats remained empty inside the historic Capitol Theatre, while many of those in attendance were from the Pinellas County political and business elite.

The debate got spicy early on when Republican David Jolly finished his initial response on Social Security by saying, "Alex, you have been misrepresenting my position on this for 10 days now. The Tampa Bay Times has called it a lie. You stand by it."

Sink did not respond, choosing to stare straight ahead while moderator Susan McManus said the issue would be revisited later on. It was.

Jolly's comment was in reference to allegations that he supports privatizing Social Security, a charge that the DCCC in particular has been lobbing at Jolly from the onset of the campaign. Regarding a specific robo-call put out by the Florida Democratic Party, PolitiFact called that allegation "mostly false."

Toward the end of the 90-minute debate, Jolly brought the issue back up when asked about fact-checking during the campaign.

"I realize that this is a hard conversation, but Alex, your claims on my Social Security position have been rated false by the Tampa Bay Times, by fact-checking organizations. I think it’s unfortunate. We have seen this in campaigns across the country where one party tries to scare seniors. That’s what’s happening. Some of the most vulnerable people in our community right now on TV are being scared by falsehoods. The voters deserve better. We as a community deserve better."

When the topic of what to do about climate change arose, Jolly said he hasn't been given credit for being a conservative who believes climate change is manmade. "Believe it or not, I’m a Republican who did an interview with the Tampa Bay Times and said I believe climate change is occurring and man has had an impact on that. You wouldn't know that based on the reporting and rhetoric you hear. Climate change is occurring. The question is: What is the appropriate response?"

Sink shot back that Jolly's response was different than what he had told the paper.

"Well, David, I'm glad you clarified that the reporting of the Tampa Bay Times was wrong because they clearly said that you did not believe in climate change."

Perhaps only the reporter(s) present may know for sure. An editorial written by the Times dated January 28 took Jolly to task for his stance at the time:

Jolly told the Tampa Bay Times, "I don't think the impact that humans have had on our climate is so dramatic as it requires a significant shift in federal policy."

Libertarian candidate Lucas Overby dismissed concerns about sea-level rise in Florida, saying that studies estimate that "it doesn't equate to more than four inches over the next 100 years," adding that the government doesn't have the money to address those issues.

On the issue of using drones, Jolly hinted that he wouldn't be adverse to seeing them used by a local police force to ferret out criminal activity. "Is it possible that a drone or a UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] is actually a better tool for surveiling criminal activity? It's possible, but it has to be considered very carefully."

Sink said the use of drones should be regulated and licensed. She said nobody wanted to see drones used to spy on American citizens, but she also thought it could be incredibly useful technology, referring to how they have been considered in Key West to spot remote breeding grounds for mosquitos as part of efforts to eradicate them.

Overby said he would use all of his energies if elected to ensure that such technology was never used in the U.S., and limited in wartime use.

On the issue of term limits for members of Congress, both Jolly and Sink agreed that they were not advisable. Sink said that she saw during her tenure as Chief Financial Officer the ills of limited experience in the state Legislature, while Jolly said the bottom line was effectiveness, with the public having the option of throwing out a legislator every two years. Of course, Jolly was for over a decade in the employ of Congressman Bill Young, who remained in office for nearly 43 years.

The issue of gun violence has not made much of an impact during this campaign. Today Jolly said that responsible gun owners would be okay with some legal changes when it came to background checks and waiting periods to purchase handguns, while emphasizing that the Second Amendment could not be sacrificed. Sink emphasized her bona fides with the Second Amendment as well, while mentioning background checks, closing "loopholes" (though not identifying which ones), and magazine capacities in firearms. Overby said he didn't want any new laws implemented, but said that mental health should be the issue. "Where did the mental health industry in this country go?" he wondered.

Later, Sink and Jolly bemoaned the third-party ads that they said were distorting their records. Jolly even suggested that he'd like to find a way to change the laws making the candidates more responsible for false attacks made by those third-party groups (we'll have more on this exchange in a coming post).

Often throughout the debate, Sink emphasized her centrist viewpoint, saying that if she is elected she would represent the "moderate, fiscally conservative people of our district." Jolly appeared to be moderating his stances more than he has throughout the campaign, while Overby elicited the biggest laughs when he denounced the third-party television ads that he of course has not been involved with.

There will be a final debate taped and aired this weekend on WEDU-TV.

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