From left, Republicans Mark Bircher, David Jolly and Kathleen Peters
Republicans Mark Bircher, David Jolly and Kathleen Peters spent the holidays on the campaign trail, trying to convince fellow Republicans that they are the best candidate to run in the March election for the District 13 Congressional seat.
The winner of the Jan. 14, 2014 special primary election will face Democrat candidate Alex Sink and Libertarian Party of Florida candidate Lucas Overby in the March 11, 2014 special general election. Write-in candidate Michael S. Levinson also qualified for that election. His name will not appear on the ballot, but a space will be provided for voters to write-in the candidate’s name.
The special election became necessary when longtime Congressman C.W. “Bill” Young died Oct. 18 after serving as District 13’s Representative in Congress for 42 years. District 13 encompasses the majority of Pinellas County with the exception of a few precincts in northern and southern areas.
According to the Supervisor of Elections Office, the cost estimate for the special election is just over $1 million - $458,668 for the Republican primary and $604,021 for the general election. The cost would have been higher had a Democratic primary been necessary, but Democrat Alex Sink is unopposed.
Florida’s primary elections are closed, meaning only those registered as a member of the political party having an election can participate. In the case of the Jan. 14 election, only registered Republicans can vote. The deadline to change party affiliations was Dec. 16.
Voting has already begun. As of Dec. 30, 19,509 – 24.9 percent – of the 78,406 mail ballots distributed by the Elections Office had been returned. Mail ballots must be returned to an Elections office by 7 p.m. Election Day. Mail ballots will not be accepted at the polls. Registered voters can request a mail ballot by calling 464-VOTE (8683) or online at votepinellas.com. The deadline to register to take part in the Jan. 14 primary was Dec. 16.
Early voting begins Jan. 4 and continues through Jan. 12. Voters can cast their ballot at any of the three Elections offices from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Early voting locations are:
• Election Service Center, 13001 Starkey Road, Largo (Starkey Lakes Corporate Center)
• Pinellas County Courthouse, 315 Court St., Room 117, Clearwater (first floor, north side)
• County Building, 501 First Ave. N., St. Petersburg (entrance on Fifth Street)
Wait times for early voting at the three locations will be available at www.votepinellas.com. Color codes represent the wait times with green for times of less than 20 minutes. Yellow signifies times of 20 to 40 minutes and red is for wait times of more than 40 minutes.
The polls will be open on Election Day, Jan. 14, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
About the candidates
Tampa Bay Newspapers sent the three candidates a questionnaire to complete. The candidates provided the following information, presented in alphabetical order.
Mark Bircher, 60, of Seminole, has lived in Pinellas County for 12 years. He is married to Jackie Spoto Bircher. They have a 10-year-old son. Bircher is a commercial airline pilot.
He received a Juris Doctor degree from Stetson University College of law in 2008 and a Bachelors of Science from the United States Naval Academy in 1976.
He is a member of the Naval Academy Alumni Association, Blue Angels Association and the Florida Bar.
David Jolly, 41, has resided at his residence in Indian Rocks Beach since 2005. He is divorced. He is vice president at Clearwater-based Boston Finance Group, CEO at Olympus Foundation Management and owner of Three Bridges Advisors, Three Bridges Law and 1924 Communications.
His education includes a Juris Doctor Cum Laude from George Mason University of Law, Arlington Va. in 2001; Bachelors of Arts in History, Emory University, Atlanta Ga. in 1994; and Pasco High School, Dade City, 1990.
Jolly is currently on the Tampa Bay Veterans Alliance Board of Advisors, Stetson Law School Elder Law Board of Advisors, Support Jessie’s Law Board of Advisors, town of Indian Shores Board of Adjustment and Florida Federal Contractors Association Board of Directors.
Kathleen Peters, 52, of South Pasadena has lived in Pinellas County for 28 years. She is married to Mike Peters. They have four children, Adam, 19; Michael, 23; Steven, 27; and Chris, 30. Peters has served District 69 in the State House of Representatives since 2012.
She has a Bachelor of Arts in Human Development from Eckerd College.
Peters serves on the Board of Directors for the Florida League of Mayors, Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority and Pinellas County EMS Advisory Board.
Question: Why are you running?
Bircher answered, “I have a 10-year-old son who I believe cannot reasonably expect to have the opportunity that I had because of the relationship between the States and the Federal Government that has evolved over the last forty years. His choices in life will be restricted by an expansive federal government that is burdening his generation with excessive debt and regulation while restricting personal liberty.”
Jolly answered, “The loss of our dear Congressman Young leaves an immeasurable void in the Congress of the United States, but also in our Pinellas County communities. This is what this race is about to me. I’ve worked on behalf of our community and this Congressional District for 20 years alongside our late Congressman, as he consistently found ways to grow high-tech and defense manufacturing jobs here at home, invest in transportation and infrastructure improvements that affect our quality of life, expand higher education opportunities, protect and nourish our beaches, and support our men and women in uniform. I got into this race because I humbly believe I have the qualifications to step in on day one and be effective for the people of Pinellas County in Congress. I also believe I can bring together Republicans, Independents and Democrats to work together.
Peters answered, “During a time when so many hardworking families in Pinellas County are struggling to make ends meet – we need a leader that understands the real challenges facing this community. For the last 28 years – I have made Pinellas County my home. From starting a small business to raising four boys and serving as your State Representative – I have dedicated my life to serving this community. That’s why I decided to run. I am the only candidate that has the experience and the background to get things done locally and in Washington like Congressman Young did for so many years. As a Member of Congress, I will fight every day to create an environment for good-paying jobs right here in Pinellas County and stop this partisan gridlock.”
Question: What do you hope to accomplish?
Bircher answered, “I have three primary goals – to rein in the federal debt and deficit; repeal the Affordable Care Act; and restore individual liberty and freedom.”
Jolly answered, “My top three priorities are creating jobs and growing our economy, repealing Obamacare and replacing with a market-based solution, and replacing the National Flood Insurance Program with a new Natural Disaster Insurance Program.”
Peters answered, “As a mother and protector of future generations - I will fight to get Washington’s spending under control and take steps to balance our nation’s budget. Here in the State of Florida, we are required to do it yearly and there is no reason why there is not a constitutional requirement that Washington do the same. I also hope to be part of the solution to replacing Obamacare. I am tired of hearing story after story about how ObamaCare is hurting the people of Pinellas County, so I intend to do something about it, not just talk about it.”
Question: What makes you more qualified than your opponent?
Bircher answered, “My 33 years in federal service in the United States military, combined with 25 years in private industry for a major corporation. My leadership positions have provided me with invaluable experience and perspective in seeking to represent the citizens of District 13. I have had to make hard decisions on budget priorities and manpower, and I have had to be accountable for results. In the Marine Corps I learned how to lead both small and large organizations.”
Jolly answered, “Pinellas County and our nation deserve a leader who will work to create jobs and grow our local economy, lower taxes, cut wasteful spending, secure America’s borders, lower the national debt, replace Obamacare with free-market health care policy and respect our Constitution and Bill of Rights. I humbly believe I have the qualifications to step in on day one and be effective for the people of Pinellas County in Congress. I also believe I can bring together Republicans, Independents and Democrats to work together.”
Peters answered, “It’s not a question of qualifications as much as it is a question of character and leadership. And it is a choice. Do the people of Pinellas County want politicians and lobbyists who serve interests outside of Pinellas County? Or do the people of this great community want someone who has lived, worked and raised a family in Pinellas County? Do the people want a mother and grandmother who has stood strong with the people of Pinellas County or a special interest lobbyist that has put Washington before this community? I’m certainly not perfect, but the people of this community know me – and they know that I will roll up my sleeves for them every day and go to work for their families just like Congressman Young did for so many years.”
Question: What are the most pressing issues in Washington that affect Pinellas County?
Bircher answered, “The negative effects of Federal government taxation, crushing debt and deficit creation and burdensome overregulation upon economic growth and job creation in Pinellas County are the most pressing issues. I believe the people of Pinellas County are better situated to decide how and where we spend our money than the decrees of a distant, unelected, unaccountable bureaucracy in Washington.”
Jolly answered, “This goes back to what I hope to accomplish. We need to create jobs and grow our local economy, repeal Obamacare and replace it with a market-based solution, and replace the National Flood Insurance Program with a new Disaster Insurance Program. Additionally, I believe the Administration and Congress must balance the budget.”
Peters answered, “Flood insurance, Obamacare, spending, debt and jobs.”
Question: What do you plan to do about these issues?
Bircher answered, “I plan on reestablishing the notion that the States created the federal government for the sole purpose to serve the interests of the States. I plan to start with the U.S. Constitution as the guiding principle for establishing the relationship between the States and the purpose of the federal government.
“Specifically: 1) What purposes and functions do ‘We the People’ actually want our public servants in Washington to do for us, their employers? 2) Grasp the fiscal reality that the federal government has no money to ‘give’ the States except what the federal government first ‘takes’ from the States in taxes or debt creation. 3) Return to direct political accountability for spending constituents’ money by a balanced budget amendment or repeal of the 16th Amendment.
“Currently, Republicans and Democrats are offering to the American people the choice of, “big government’ or ‘bigger government,’ which is really no choice at all. I think we Republicans can do better.”
Jolly answered, “I started and ran the Florida Federal Contractors Association to sustain and grow Pinellas’ defense, high-technology and manufacturing industry. We must protect these jobs by electing a Member of Congress that understands the important contribution these companies make to job growth and our local economy.
“Repeal Obamacare and replace it with a market-based solution – that solution should be able to address pre-existing conditions, protect policy owners from cancellation and allow children to remain on their parents’ policies until a later age just as the ACA does.
The Administration and Congress should balance the budget. Merely reducing the amount of the annual deficit does not constitute capturing additional revenue. An actual surplus would create an opportunity to consider additional investment in services with a reduction of the tax burden imposed on individuals and businesses.”
Peters answered, “The Biggert-Waters Act is another example of a broken Washington system passing legislation without thinking it through. As a community leader, I’ve been pushing this issue to the forefront. As a Congresswoman, I will not allow Washington to ignore this any longer.
“As a member of congress – I will never stop fighting until ObamaCare is replaced with free-market based solutions that expand access without destroying our economy, putting the federal government between you and your doctor, and lowering the quality of our care.
“As a state legislator, I’ve already worked to lay the groundwork for Pinellas County to thrive in the technology field with higher salary jobs. As a member of Congress, I will work to lower tax rates, encourage hiring among small business, support legislation that reduces government regulations on job-creators here in Florida and keep Florida on the road to recovery.”