Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas candidates debate Obamacare, other hot issues in Congress

TAMPA — With 11 days left in their campaigns, the candidates in Pinellas County's congressional election met Friday for their final scheduled debate, handling questions on Social Security, Obamacare, Cuba and war.

On Social Security, an issue that is playing a key role in the contest, Democrat Alex Sink said that she considers the program to be strong and that its trustees have said it will be solvent for 20 years. She pledged to be a "strong advocate" for the program, and said she would oppose privatizing it.

Republican David Jolly said Social Security's trustees have made it clear the program has long-term financial challenges that must be addressed.

"We have to have an adult conversation about this," Jolly said. "Let's start by guaranteeing benefits for everybody that's currently on the program (and) those who will be on the system soon," and then look for ways to make sure it will be available to younger generations also, he said.

Moderator Rob Lorei asked if that could include some form of privatization, and Jolly said "I think for the youngest generation, it is appropriate that we consider all options … but importantly, we have to maintain the safety net."

Libertarian candidate Lucas Overby said he opposes privatization, but does not consider Social Security to be on a strong footing.

Jolly also said in the half-hour debate at WEDU studios that while he supports a full repeal of Obamacare, he favors some of its consumer-protection provisions, such as allowing people to get insurance coverage even with preexisting conditions.

Why does he oppose the law? "We don't need Obamacare to solve that problem."

Sink reaffirmed her support of the law, and said a repeal would be a far worse option than fixing what needs improvement.

On abortion, Jolly clarified that while he opposes it, he does believe abortions should be allowed in cases of rape or incest, or to protect the life of the mother.

Sink said she was not ready to lift the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, because of Cuba's human rights violations.

Jolly is not ready to lift the embargo either, saying "I don't trust the Cuban regime."

Overby advocated lifting it.

Lorei posed at least one question the candidates have not faced before: If asked to approve a future war, would the candidates also pledge to raise taxes to pay for it? None did.

None of the candidates was asked about immigration, or asked each other about it. Sink stirred a controversy earlier in the week when she said she supported immigration reform, adding, "where are you going to get people to work to clean our hotel rooms or do our landscaping?" Jolly later called her comment disgusting, and said it should disqualify her from Congress.

The latest campaign reports show that, through Feb. 19, Jolly's campaign raised just over $1 million and Sink's campaign raised about $2.5 million, although spending by outside groups has reached about $6 million.

Curtis Krueger can be reached at (727) 893-8232 or

To watch the debate: Tune in to WEDU at 12:30 p.m. Sunday.

.fast facts

Watch the debate

Tune in to WEDU at 12:30 p.m. Sunday.

Pinellas candidates debate Obamacare, other hot issues in Congress 02/28/14 [Last modified: Friday, February 28, 2014 10:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays Tales: The stories behind Corey Dickerson's ascension

    The Heater

    The 25 pounds DH/LF Corey Dickerson lost during the winter through diet and exercise are considered the primary reason for his ascension to one of the American League's most productive hitters, going into the weekend leading in hits, multi-hit games and total bases, and ranked in the top five in average, runs and …

    Tampa Bay Rays designated hitter Corey Dickerson (10) connects for a sac fly, scores Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Steve Pearce (28) in the fourth inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, June 15, 2016.
  2. Gregg Allman of The Allman Brothers Band dies at age 69

    Music & Concerts

    SAVANNAH, Ga. — Music legend Gregg Allman, whose bluesy vocals and soulful touch on the Hammond B-3 organ helped propel the Allman Brothers Band to superstardom and spawn Southern rock, died Saturday, a publicist said. He was 69.

    This Oct. 13, 2011 file photo shows Gregg Allman performs at the Americana Music Association awards show in Nashville, Tenn. On Saturday, May 27, 2017, a publicist said the musician, the singer for The Allman Brothers Band, has died. (AP Photo/Joe Howell, File)
  3. Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning, a former senator, dies at 85


    LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Jim Bunning, a former Hall of Fame pitcher who went on to serve in Congress, has died. He was 85.

    In this June 21, 1964 file photo, Jim Bunning of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches a perfect game against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium in New York.  The Phillies beat the Mets, 6-0.  Bunning retired all 27 batters who faced him in the first game of a doubleheader to become the first pitcher in 42 years with a perfect game in regular season play.   (AP Photo/File)
  4. Trump to decide next week whether to quit Paris climate agreement


    TAORMINA, Italy —President Donald Trump declined to endorse the Paris climate accords on Saturday, saying he would decide in the coming days whether the United States would pull out of the 195-nation agreement.

    President Donald Trump, right, arrives to a G7 session with outreach countries in Taormina, Italy, on Saturday. Climate and trade were sticking points at the two-day summit in Taormina, Sicily. (AP Photo/Salvatore Cavalli)
  5. Gregg Allman, iconic Southern rocker from Florida's Allman Brothers Band, dies at 69


    The end can come quickly for those who live fast and live hard, who create worlds with their talent and sometimes come close to throwing them away.