A closer look at Congressional District 13 candidates

Published December 23 2013
Updated December 23 2013

A closer look at Pinellas County's Republican candidates for Congress

Three Republican candidates are running in a fast-paced and increasingly tough primary election to fill the Pinellas County congressional seat left vacant by the death of Republican U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, who served in Congress for 43 years. On 3B, is a look at where the Republican candidates stand on the issues, before the Jan. 14 special primary election. After that, stay tuned.

The winner will face Democrat Alex Sink and Libertarian Lucas Overby. Also, if you're a registered Republican in Congressional District 13, don't forget you can vote early in the primary, with Supervisor of Elections offices open from Jan. 4 through 12. The hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

The early voting locations are: Election Service Center, 13001 Starkey Road, Largo; Pinellas County Courthouse, 315 Court St., Room 117; County Building, 501 First Ave. N, St. Petersburg. Congressional District 13 runs from south Pinellas to Dunedin, with parts of southern and downtown St. Petersburg cut out.

Mark Bircher, 60


airline pilot

David Jolly, 41


lawyer, lobbyist, consultant

Kathleen Peters, 52


State representative.

Experience Was on active duty and then reserve duty as a U.S. Marine, and his duties included a stint in the Blue Angels; and two recalls to active duty since 2003 as a reservist. Retired from the Marines as a brigadier general. He also is an attorney doing mostly pro-bono cases. He also works as a commercial airline pilot. Was a longtime aide and general counsel to the late U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young. He is a lawyer and has been a lobbyist and also a consultant. He has lived in Indian Shores since 2006, often commuting to Washington. He helped found the nonprofit Florida Federal Contractors Association. Has been city commissioner and mayor of South Pasadena, and has worked for the YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg, the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Juvenile Welfare Board. She was elected last year as a state representative in District 69.
Education Undergraduate degree from the U.S. Naval Academy and a law degree from Stetson University College of Law. Bachelor's degree from Emory University and a law degree from George Mason University School of Law. Associate's degree from St. Petersburg College and a bachelor's degree from Eckerd College.
How would you respond to recent changes that have led to skyrocketing flood insurance rates? Supports plan to delay implementation at least four years, but says federal government should ultimately get out of the program, except for engineering support. "The combined actions of the state Legislature, private market risk capacity insurance and community concern for neighbors would find sustainable solutions." Says the plan to delay the new flood control rules is "a good start, but it does not go far enough." He advocates a new national disaster program that would cover many different disasters nationwide — tornadoes, earthquakes, wildfires, drought, volcanoes. This would diversify risk. "I think a multiyear delay of the implementation is necessary to properly study and have a more comprehensive, well-thought-out plan." But simply imposing a one-year delay without added study "would only cause more uncertainty" in the housing market.
Should the Affordable Care Act ("Obama­care") be repealed? How can it be improved? He would vote to repeal the law, which he believes is unconstitutional. He said it "increases the debt and deficit, increases taxes, creates yet more intrusive federal regulations, and completely inhibits and prevents a true free market and patient-centered health care system from arising." "Thus far it's been nothing but a mess and a failure. … I will go to Washington and vote to repeal Obama­care, no ifs, ands or buts, no unless and no until. We go up there and we vote to repeal it." Says it should be replaced with "a market-based solution" that will "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." She wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but "I do support the concept to provide affordable health care to those in need." Also said the pre-existing condition portion of the law is good. She disagrees with requiring people to buy insurance. Says the law has caused many disruptions and "the taxes that will be imposed are going to have chilling effect on our economy."
Congress may soon be asked to increase the federal debt ceiling. How would you vote? Says he would fully study all information available to him before the specific vote. However, he believes many regulations handled by the federal government should be returned to state governments, even if this is a process that requires a multi-year transition. Doing so would reduce the federal debt problem, he said. "We don't have the luxury of defaulting on our debt," so he would vote to increase the ceiling if absolutely necessary. But any increase would have to be tied to specific spending cuts. It would be "the height of irresponsibility" to increase the debt ceiling without a corresponding spending cut. "I'm not in support of raising the debt ceiling. … I would much rather see us cutting the budget and improving the credit line that way so we don't have to worry about the defaults."
Do you support any additional restrictions on abortions? Do you think Roe vs. Wade should be overturned? "Personally, I'm prolife." But he also believes this should be an issue left up to individual states and not a mandate from the federal government. He favors no additional federal restrictions, but would leave that up to the states. He believes life begins at conception, but "I don't think Congress has the constitutional authority to overturn Roe vs. Wade. ... I think the prolife community, we will advance our cause by addressing what is most attainable and that is by putting restrictions in place where we can achieve them." Did not state a specific position. "Honestly I think that's a private issue. I think too often we put social issues into government that don't belong." As examples of what she believes, "I don't support government-funded abortions, but I don't support the government dictating to religious hospitals what they can and cannot do."
How would you describe Bill Young's legacy? And what portions of that legacy, if any, do you intend to continue? Admires Young's strong advocacy for military issues, "right down to the PFCs and the lance corporals. "The next member of Congress will establish their own legacy." His would be to focus the federal government on the powers listed in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. "Bill Young had a heart of service for Pinellas County." Says Young had an excellent track record of helping local residents with individual governmental problems "and that is so often talked about in the veterans' and the senior community … at the end of the day this is a community leadership position as much as it is a national policy position." "I don't believe anyone can truly replace such an icon. My focus is working for the citizens of Pinellas County, ensuring that our quality of life can be maintained for all of our citizens, that we can come up with policies in the federal government that will be probusiness, that will preserve the economy, that will lower the debt and deficit, that will preserve a future for our children."
What makes you the best candidate in this race? "I think I'm the best candidate in the race because of my experience in leading and running large organizations." Says his career has always led him to get up to speed quickly in new areas, including serving in Miami in a quasidiplomatic military post. " I believe given my nearly 20 years working specifically for the people of this county in matters related to the United States Congress … I believe I bring that experience in a way that no other candidate in this race can match." To run for office, "you need to know the character, the charm and even the blemishes of the community." She has worked for years in Pinellas, is the only one who has served in local elective office and is "the only one that's written policy and then had to vote on it."
Website bircherforcongress.com davidjolly.com kathleenpeters.com
Email mark@markbircher.org david@davidjolly.com Kathleen@KathleenPeters.com