SEMINOLE — Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio came to support the man he called Pinellas County's next congressman on Monday, and David Jolly responded that "it's the highest honor of my life to have your endorsement."
The senator and the Republican congressional hopeful spoke outside the Lake Seminole Square retirement center Monday and took turns criticizing President Obama and the Affordable Care Act. They also toured the center and spoke to residents having dinner.
Rubio said the health care law championed by the president "takes money out of Medicare, not to save Medicare, but to fund Obamacare."
Instead of becoming a rubber-stamp supporter of the president like Democratic candidate Alex Sink, Rubio said Jolly would "stand up and fight for you, and fight to repeal and replace Obamacare, and fight to bring sanity to the spending and the taxation."
The two men differ on immigration —Rubio supports a "pathway to citizenship" for some who are in this country illegally, and Jolly does not.
Rubio acknowledged the difference, but said political leaders should work on areas in which there is agreement — such as better enforcement, better technology and more.
"The better you do at those things, the more space you'll have politically to do the other parts of it," Rubio said.
In spite of their disagreement Jolly said "nobody has had more conviction in leading on this issue than Sen. Marco Rubio."
A reporter noted that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist now opposes the U.S. embargo on Cuba and Rubio deadpanned, "I'm not surprised that he's changed his position." Rubio beat Crist in the 2010 Senate race, after Crist switched from the Republican Party to independent.
Jolly said he supports the embargo.
Rubio's appearance with Jolly drew remarks from Democrats.
State Democratic Party spokesman Joshua Karp said it showed Jolly "is siding with the most dysfunctional fringe and opposing bipartisan, common sense solutions to the most pressing challenges facing our country."
Jolly, Sink and Libertarian Lucas Overby are candidates in Pinellas County's 13th Congressional District, which extends from south Pinellas to Dunedin, with portions of downtown and southern St. Petersburg cut out.
Mail ballots already have been sent out in the race. Election day is March 11.
The special election was called after the death in October of Republican U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, who represented Pinellas in Congress for more than 40 years.
Staff writer Curtis Krueger can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8232.