PBCTP Candidate Forum Highlights CD18 Candidates
The Florida primary election for all but the Presidential race is on August 30 – about 11 months from now. Even so, there are already 12 candidates (9 Republicans and 3 Democrats) that are competing for the CD18 seat currently held by Patrick Murphy. Six of them came together at Abacoa this week for a PBC Tea Party candidate forum hosted by channel 5’s Michael Williams.
With the good sized, occasionally boisterous crowd, and a series of policy oriented questions from the moderator which challenged their conservative bona fides, it was good practice for these candidates as they launch their campaigns, and practice is important. Two of the candidates – Carl Domino and Paul Spain, ran for Congress in the last cycle, and Carl has 8 years of experience as a state legislator. These came across as polished and extremely prepared for whatever was thrown at them. The relative inexperience of the others was clearly in evidence as they stumbled over straightforward questions, but they all have a rationale for their candidacy and are quick enough to learn from their mistakes. At this point in the cycle, any of the six could emerge as the likely nominee.
The questions covered a lot of topics, including if they would shut down the government over Planned Parenthood or the debt limit, their tax plans, what in the budget they would cut, the 2nd amendment, the conflict in Syria, and social issues such as the definition of marriage. Many of the answers were within expected parameters for a Republican primary, but there were some unique positions that stood out.
Brian Mast, the highly decorated Army veteran who is campaigning with energy and spirit and does not let his combat injuries hold him back, cast many answers from a military perspective, and listed fixing the VA as a top priority. He favors a “fair tax” (on consumption) of around 10% of GDP, would avoid shutting down the government over the budget or debt ceiling, and would favor means testing for Social Security and Medicare.
Carl Domino, the veteran Tallahassee lawmaker, would fight harder on the budget, casting a government shutdown as a political decision by the President in response to the Congress’ authority to set spending priorities. He favors a Congressional limit on regulations based on the level of financial burden imposed, a modified flat tax, school choice as a way of attracting Hispanic and minority voters, limiting benefits to Congressmen and introducing term limits.
Marc Freeman, a Boca Raton doctor, would avoid a government shutdown as irresponsible. He would work to “simplify” Washington – pointing to Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank as complicated rules that should be eliminated, and believes that “no able bodied person should be on the dole.”
Paul Spain, who ran against Lois Frankel in CD22 last cycle, would never again raise the debt limit, believing the government doesn’t ever “really” shut down and there is plenty of revenue to pay the interest on the debt. Individual agencies should be frozen. His tax plan is similar to Donald Trump’s, with 3 rates and an exclusion below $30K. He was the only one to suggest (rightly) that Democrats favor open borders to increase their voting base.
Rebecca Negron, Martin County school board member, would deal with the budget by not replacing government workers as they leave, and hopes to avoid “government by crisis” when spending bills are always up against a deadline. Her top priority is to kill the department of Education which brought us Common Core. Prior to sending troops to the middle east, she would want to see a plan (something current administration lacks).
Rick Kozell, a Jupiter attorney with experience working for lawmakers in Washington, including Senators George LeMieux and Tom Coburn, opposes raising the debt limit and rejected the premise that raising the limit or shutting down the government were the only choices. He would work to roll back the regulatory state that is crushing small business and favors a flat tax. He opposes sending ground troops to the middle east “at this time”, and favors an immigration plan with guest workers but no citizenship path.
The moderator, Michael Williams, hosts the Sunday show on channel 5, “To the Point”. In my view, on his show he is pretty fair and balanced in the way candidates and issues from both sides of the political spectrum are treated. He was heckled by the audience at times during this event though, as some thought he was favoring some candidates over others in time allotment, and others rejected some of the premises of the questions. He did frame several questions with “the tea party believes…” – such as that we are all dependent on Medicare and Social Security and thus are hypocrites for calling for spending cuts. Of course that is something which comes natural to our liberal friends in the media and it did not really detract from the event. Most would admit that the “tea party” is not monolithic in thought, and generally driven by concern for the country as opposed to narrow self-interest.