Republican David Jolly, 41, Democrat Alex Sink, 65, and Libertarian Lucas Overby, 27, are running for the seat left vacant after for C.W. “Bill” Young died Oct. 18.
With 73,192 mail ballots returned the Elections Office as Feb. 21, and early voting set to begin Saturday, March 1, campaigns are in full swing for candidates looking to win Pinellas County’s District 13 seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Republican David Jolly, 41, Democrat Alex Sink, 65, and Libertarian Lucas Overby, 27, are running for the seat left vacant after for C.W. “Bill” Young died Oct. 18. Write-in candidate Michael S. Levinson also qualified. His name does not appear on the ballot; however, a blank appears on the ballot where voters can fill in his name.
On the issues
Tampa Bay Newspapers asked Jolly, Sink and Overby to answer one last round of questions to assist voters making their choices in the March 11 election.
• Affordable Care Act – Good or bad and why.
David Jolly: I believe we can improve healthcare coverage for the individual by replacing Obamacare with a smaller government model that encourages private sector solutions. We should replace Obamacare with a statutory framework that resembles that of term life insurance. A young individual can take out a policy that is priced based on their youth and health for a term certain (10, 20, 30 years). It would provide price stability, protection from cancellation due to intervening health events, would be portable, decoupled from the employer, but eligible for reimbursement by employers who choose to do so. For pre-existing conditions, we should consider a system that pre-qualifies individuals for a federal program prior to the complete elimination of the individual's personal safety net resources.
Alex Sink: While the Affordable Care Act is far from perfect, we cannot go back to a time where insurance companies ran the show and could discriminate against those with pre-existing conditions. Republicans and Democrats must come together to improve the law: keep what works and fix any problems. But a radical repeal would make everyone pay more and would bring back the Medicare prescription drug donut hole for seniors. That is unacceptable.
Lucas Overby: While I am willing to work with certain aspects of the ACA, such as the new consumer protection policies, I feel that in the long run the ACA will only exasperate costs. I feel that we should be focused on decreasing the cost of care.
• Medicare – fund or cut and why.
David Jolly: I have said from the beginning of this campaign that we need to protect the promises that have been made to everyone. Pinellas seniors and those who have planned for Medicare should not be faced with reduction in Medicare benefits, including Medicare Advantage.
Alex Sink: Medicare is a promise made to our seniors who have earned it. We must keep that promise to Pinellas seniors.
Lucas Overby: While I feel that we need to be looking for ways to make Medicare more efficient, I do not feel that we are in a place to blindly cut funding.
• Should the minimum wage be increased? Explain your answer.
David Jolly: I believe that minimum wage should be indexed to inflation or subject to a cost-of-living adjustment like any other federal income program, meaning some years it may go up, other years it may stay static.
Alex Sink: The minimum wage should be increased to allow hard working Pinellas residents to earn a living wage. Raising the minimum wage will put more money in the hands of workers and boost our economy.
Lucas Overby: I am opposed to raising the minimum wage. Instead I am in favor of decreasing taxes and allowing people to keep more of what they earn and allow businesses more availability for hiring.
• Flood insurance reform – how do you fix NFIP and keep insurance affordable for property owners?
David Jolly: I believe we should replace the National Flood Insurance Program with a new natural disaster insurance program that better aggregates and diversifies risk across all regions and all types of disasters, from earthquakes in the west, to snow in the northeast and northwest, to tornadoes in the midwest, to floods and fires throughout the country - but then only until state-based solutions, like those currently under consideration in Florida, are enacted.
Alex Sink: The flood insurance crisis is one of the main reasons I got in this race. We must stop the flood insurance rate spike from impacting Pinellas homeowners. I have outlined my principles to tackle this crisis, which involve holding FEMA accountable and increasing transparency and affordability for homeowners, and rolling back the rate spike. I encourage residents to look at the full details of my proposals on my website, www.AlexForCongress.com.
Lucas Overby: Short term I am in favor of delivering a hold on the rate hikes for all citizens and helping Florida move forward with privatization. I do not feel that the NFIP can be saved in a way that we will not run into these problems again and any expansion will inevitably lead to even larger problems down the road.
• Social Security – how do you sustain it for the future, or do you?
David Jolly: I believe we have to protect benefits not just for current beneficiaries, but for those who have already vested into social security through 40 quarters (or 10 years) of employment.
Alex Sink: I am proud to be the only candidate in this race who has been perfectly clear about my commitment to protecting and preserving the Social Security benefits that Pinellas seniors have earned, and I am proud to have been endorsed by the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. While Social Security will remain viable for the next two decades as is, the best long-term solution is to get our economy growing again with more high-paying, sustainable jobs.
Lucas Overby: I am in the process of working through several voluntary options for removal high income recipients, as well as restructuring options for retirement age and cost of living. At this point I am unwilling to abandon SS by arbitrarily placing the cost on one generation in favor of another.
• Gay marriage – for or against
David Jolly: As a matter of faith, I believe in traditional marriage. However, I do not object to states choosing to allow same-sex marriage. The sanctity of marriage is between two individuals and their God.
Alex Sink: I support marriage equality.
Lucas Overby: For.
• Legalizing medical marijuana – for or against.
David Jolly: I am against legalizing medical marijuana through a ballot initiative.
Alex Sink: I have seen firsthand how medicinal marijuana could help those suffering from serious diseases and illnesses, and I want those who are suffering to be able to receive the care they need. I am concerned about the prospect of a marijuana store on every corner, and would want to carefully review the specifics of proposals to legalize it.
Lucas Overby: For.
• Is immigration reform headed in the right direction?
David Jolly: We are a loving and caring nation that is better because of legal immigration. It should be encouraged. But we must secure our borders against those who flagrantly ignore our nation’s immigration laws. People who enter our country illegally simply cannot be given special treatment over those who have been patiently waiting in their country of origin to enter our country legally.
Alex Sink: I support the Senate’s bipartisan immigration reform bill and I urge the House of Representatives to pass it.
Overby: The Senate Bill is a good first step.
• Is a balanced budget important for the federal government?
David Jolly: Yes, I support a balanced budget amendment.
Alex Sink: To get our fiscal house in order we must start cutting our debt and balancing budgets by cutting wasteful spending and closing tax loopholes so that big corporations and the wealthiest few are paying their fair share. What we cannot do is try and balance the budget on the backs of seniors, veterans, and middle class Pinellas families.
Lucas Overby: Conceptually it is a good idea; however the wording would need to very specific that taxes cannot be raised to balance the budget.
• Funding for beach nourishment is dwindling, how can you help?
David Jolly: I worked with Congressman Bill Young for nearly 20 years on issues important to Pinellas County, including beach renourishment. It is experience I bring to this campaign. I intend to carry on his work not just on funding for beach renourishment on reauthorization of renourishment programs that protect our beaches, our quality of life and our economy.
Alex Sink: Here in Pinellas County we know better than most that healthy beaches mean a healthy economy. I am fully committed to protecting our beautiful beaches and the economy they support, and in Congress I will be a strong and vocal advocate to ensure our beaches receive the resources we need.
Lucas Overby: I have already been working with local candidates and officials on ways that local communities could deal with the issues of beach re-nourishment and sustainability outside of the federal funds. This would make Pinellas County beach communities more self-sufficient and more in control of their own environment.
• Do you approve of Greenlight Pinellas? If so, will you push for federal money to help fund it? If you don’t approve of Greenlight Pinellas, will you seek federal funds for other projects to improve transportation in Pinellas?
David Jolly: Infrastructure and transportation improvements are always beneficial. I personally will vote against Greenlight because of the tax increase. If elected, and the voters approve of Greenlight in November, I will work in Congress to ensure federal funds are provided to ensure the program’s success.
Alex Sink: I support measures that will improve Pinellas’ transportation infrastructure. If voters approve the measure it will be my responsibility to work with the administration to get the federal matching funds.
Lucas Overby: I am opposed to Greenlight largely because of the negative impact on low-income residents of raising costs in the County to pay for it. I have been working with residents on both sides of the issue to help find solutions to our mass transportation needs, but those solutions will not contain federal funding.
• If elected, what is the No. 1 thing you can do for the people you serve in Pinellas?
David Jolly: Immediately continue the legacy of constituent and community service that our late Congressman Young was known for. Serving in Congress means first taking care of Pinellas County.
Alex Sink: I will work to bring Republicans and Democrats together to break the gridlock and get things done for Pinellas County. I have practiced these bipartisan, results-oriented values my entire life, and it’s those values I will take to Congress.
Lucas Overby: The number one focus should be on restructuring and decreasing taxes, helping to bring back a strong small business environment, and making conditions more suitable for the middle class.
• Accusations are flying as the campaign heats up. What one thing would you like to set straight?
David Jolly: My opponent and outside groups have continued to misrepresent my position on Social Security and Medicare reform. I do not believe in privatizing Social Security or turning Medicare into a voucher programs. The Tampa Bay Times and multiple fact check organizations have repeatedly found those claims to be false – yet some in this campaign continue to use such false allegations simply to scare seniors. The voters deserve better.
Alex Sink: No matter what the attack ads may say, my record as a fiscal conservative and moderate Democrat is not up for debate. As the Chief Financial Officer, we cracked down on wasteful spending and protected tax dollars – taking the best ideas from the private sector to make government do more with less. We introduced commonsense initiatives that saved millions for Floridians by cutting red tape and introducing performance metrics to hold government accountable for waste and abuse, and I’ll do the same in Congress.
Lucas Overby: No answer.
• Party politics
Do you think your political party will help or hurt your chances of winning the election?
David Jolly: Elections should always be decided on where individual candidates stand on the issues. I believe my positions on lower taxes, healthcare and flood insurance resonate strongly with the voters.
Alex Sink: That’s for the political pundits to decide. Voters are sick and tired of the dysfunction and gridlock in Washington, and they’re ready for Republicans and Democrats to come together to start getting things done -- I’m running for Congress to do just that.
Lucas Overby: I feel that in this particular election my party affiliation has helped.