Charlie Justice is only candidate at Tiger Bay debate, but he's not lonely
Democrat Charlie Justice was the only candidate for Congress in District 10 to attend Tuesday's meeting of the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club in Feather Sound. U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Indian Shores, was absent, citing his need to recover from a back injury.
But if Justice, whom Young has avoided debating the past year, was feeling lonely, club members helped him out, repeatedly quipping about Young's absence and giving him strong applause at the end.
"Welcome, Tigers and guests, to the debate by the candidates for the District 10 congressional seat," Ben Friedlander said to laughter. "Uh, what? No debate. I signed up for a debate."
Noting a Times account when Young said he could be in Washington in 24 hours' notice despite being missing from the public eye, Friedlander introduced Justice by saying: "I'm reassured because he says he can be in Washington on 24 hours' notice. He just can't be in Feather Sound."
Friedlander is a Democrat and is Justice's Realtor. But Friendlander was far from the only audience member scoffing at Young's absence. Ray Neri asked Justice, "How difficult is it to debate a phantom?"
"It's disappointing. At best it's disappointing," Justice replied.
Much of the underdog's answers repeated his critique of Young and explained his own record as a state senator from St. Petersburg. He faulted Young for lacking a legislative record of trying to bring rail, improve Social Security or protect residents from environmental dangers, such as people in the Azalea neighborhood who live near Raytheon pollution. And, as always, for repeatedly directing earmark spending to projects sometimes tied to lobbyists.
On the Azalea issue, he said, "my opponent remains silent."
And: "My opponent had the opportunity to have input on the big jobs bill in Washington recently. He didn't show up."
But Justice strove to defend abandoning a battleground Senate seat he won in 2006 to take on what's generally rated a solid Republican seat with Young in it. Justice said he didn't run for the seat with a future bid in mind.
"I have never done that, I have never done that. I ran for my first seat when the party said, 'Don't run. We've got a better candidate.' "