U.S. Rep. Karen Thurman, D-Dunnellon, cast some disquieting votes during her first term in Congress. She voted against the North American Free Trade Agreement, opposed the Brady Bill, establishing a waiting period for a handgun purchase and voted against the ban on assault weapons.
Thurman says these votes are grounded in personal conviction, not political pandering, and her actions back up her words. She accepted $12,400 from the National Rifle Association to kick off her first campaign in 1992 but has refused NRA money since. Early in the current campaign, the NRA sent her $2,500. Although she is in a tough race for re-election, she returned the money.
On other matters, Thurman's voting record is solid, and she doesn't run from her controversial decisions, even though her inexperienced opponent takes them out of context and distorts their impact.
Republican challenger Don Garlits, who made his fame and fortune as a drag racer, seems to think his success on the track translates into qualification for Congress. While the ability to get out of town fast can benefit a public official, that's about all Garlits would bring to the job.
Thurman has been a teacher, a seven-year member of the Dunnellon City Council and a two-term mayor. During 12 years in the state Senate she helped pass legislation to protect the elderly, who make up a sizable proportion of her nine-county congressional district, including parts of Pasco, Hernando and Citrus Counties.
She voted for President Clinton's budget resolution, which cut the deficit by a third. Garlits carps that the budget included a new 4.3-cent-a-gallon gasoline tax, which devastates residents of the district. In fact, it adds 50 to 70 cents to the cost of a fill-up. The benefits of deficit-reduction easily outweigh this sacrifice.
Thurman favors both campaign finance and lobbying reforms. She voted to cut appropriations for some federal programs and to eliminate others. She favors universal health care with long-term care and prescription drug coverage. But if the federal government can't agree on reform, she supports Gov. Lawton Chiles health security program, which would use some Medicaid funds to subsidize affordable health care for poor, working Floridians. And she favors repeal of the insurance industry's exemption from federal anti-trust laws.
On the whole, Democrat Karen Thurman is the best choice for the 5th congressional district, and we hope voters will give her a second term in Congress.