Election day for U.S. House District 13 is a week away, and early voting is under way. It's time for Pinellas County voters to focus on what the candidates have said and done, not what the campaigns and third-party groups claim in millions of dollars of political advertising. There are stark differences between Democrat Alex Sink and Republican David Jolly, and Sink best reflects the sensibilities of Pinellas voters. A quick refresher:
IMMIGRATION: Jolly opposes immigration reform passed last year by the U.S. Senate. He has tried to distract voters by irresponsibly claiming Sink is a bigot for her awkward comments about the need for reform and the demand for workers in the hospitality industry that isn't being met by American citizens. Her comments echo statements from many other politicians, Republicans and Democrats, who also see a need to reform a broken immigration system and acknowledge there are hospitality and agricultural jobs that American citizens are not eager to fill. Sink supports the Senate bill that Republican Sen. Marco Rubio helped draft.
SOCIAL SECURITY: Sink supporters cast Jolly as an advocate for privatizing Social Security because he lobbied for a group that supports privatization. But Jolly says he wants to keep the program in its current form for all but younger workers who have less than 10 years in the workforce. He has said that private investment accounts could be part of reforms for younger workers, but he has not said he is committed to that path. Sink has said she would consider minor changes to the program to improve its long-term solvency. Neither offers a comprehensive solution to extending the life of Social Security.
AFFORDABLE CARE ACT: Jolly's backers have claimed Sink's support of the Affordable Care Act will result in lost jobs, cuts to Medicare and dropped insurance policies. PolitiFact, the Tampa Bay Times' fact-checking site, gave none of the claims a "true" rating. Sink would improve rather than repeal the health care reform law. Jolly would vote to repeal the law, but Congress is not headed in that direction.
ABORTION: Jolly said without elaboration he would vote to overturn Roe vs. Wade and maintained that life begins at conception. He now says he would keep abortion available only for victims of rape or incest or in cases where the life of the mother is at risk. Sink supports abortion rights and does not want to see Roe vs. Wade overturned.
BALANCED BUDGET: Jolly calls himself a "Bill Young Republican," but Sink is more in line with the late Republican congressman than Jolly on budget issues. Young supported spending cuts but said investment in infrastructure and other critical areas also is necessary. Sink agrees. Jolly wants only spending cuts until the deficit is gone and supports amending the U.S. Constitution to require a balanced federal budget.