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Commentary, sarcasm and snide remarks from a Florida resident of over thirty years. Being a glutton for punishment is a requirement for residency here. Who am I? I've been called a moonbat by Michelle Malkin, a Right Wing Nut by Daily Kos, and middle of the road by Florida blog State of Sunshine. Tell me what you think.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Sleeper race- The Florida 13th

The race to replace Katherine Harris has become quite heated. What was regarded as a safe GOP seat is now a competitive race. Just one more reason I'm not optimistic about the GOP holding onto a Congressional majority after the November election. Safe seats turning competitive is not a good sign.

Below is an article from today's Bradenton Herald. I don't have anything to add, this race is too far away for me to formulate an opinion or make any observations. Maybe you can.

Linked to- Bright & Early, Right Wing Nation,

MANATEE - For political junkies, the 13th Congressional District race has it all.

A marquee name. Two strong candidates, including one who has pumped millions of his personal fortune into his campaign. Massive TV ad buys. Accusations of negative campaigning and personal attacks. Drop-ins and endorsements by national political celebrities. A possible Democratic win in a Republican stronghold, potentially tipping the balance of power in Washington. Nearly record-setting sums of money raised and spent.

Thus, it's no surprise the media spotlight has shone brightly on the contest between Republican Vern Buchanan and Democrat Christine Jennings to succeed well-known GOP Rep. Katherine Harris, political observers said.

"Florida just has national appeal in terms of interest in politics," said Susan MacManus, a University of South Florida political science professor.

"Once again we're a bellwether, a key swing state in an election season where so much is at stake. Democrats need to gain 15 seats to take control of Congress, and four to six of those could be in Florida, including the 13th (District). Once again, we're ground zero for control of Congress."

Nearly lost in the mix have been issues high on 13th District voters' minds, including immigration and border security, terrorism, Iraq and congressional ethics.

Buchanan and Jennings have talked, although not in great detail, about those and other issues during public appearances, on their Web sites and in campaign materials. But their TV spots thus far have touched upon only a few issues, most notably President Bush's tax cuts.

The lack of focus on issues is not unusual in today's political climate of sound bites and voters' short attention spans, MacManus said.

"You can't really do justice to the issues in a 30-second spot," she said. "But in a way, voters want their politics like they want their fast food: Give me a menu, let me pick what I want and give it to me quick."

Big issue debate

Buchanan and Jennings disagree on what issue the district's voters consider most important. Buchanan says it's immigration and border security, while Jennings says it's fiscal responsibility in Washington.

"The biggest issue is to toughen up the border," Buchanan said, rejecting calls by some for granting blanket amnesty to illegal immigrants already in the United States. "We have an obligation to our citizens, first and foremost. Our government needs to take care of them first."

To keep illegals out, a reinforced barricade system of fencing, multiple barriers, razor wire and security cameras should be built along the U.S.-Mexico border, supplemented by reconnaissance flights, he said.

Illegal immigrants who are known terrorists, gang members and/or criminals should be immediately deported, and Illegal aliens shouldn't be allowed to obtain driver licenses, Social Security or other government benefits, Buchanan said.

Jennings said she also favors tightening the border, but said mass deportation would be cumbersome and costly. Instead, illegal immigrants should be allowed to earn U.S. citizenship by keeping a legitimate job, paying taxes, obeying the law and learning English. Penalties on employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens also should be increased, she said.

But of greater concern is runaway spending in Washington, which has created an $8 trillion-plus national debt largely owned by foreign interests, she said.

"Having been a banker for 40 years and seeing the financial condition of this country, I'm deeply worried," Jennings said. "Congress has not been a responsible steward of our money. We're on the verge of bankruptcy."

She said she favors a balanced-budget requirement and a "pay as you go" philosophy - as does Buchanan - and increased oversight of federal spending. The federal government also should crack down on U.S. companies that use foreign tax havens, which cost the U.S. treasury $100 billion a year in lost revenues, Jennings said.

Congress also should repeal the Bush tax cuts for the richest 1 percent of Americans, but should maintain those - including the child tax credit and reduction in the so-called "marriage penalty" - that benefit the middle class and small businesses, she said.

Buchanan criticized Jennings' tax-cut stance in a TV ad, saying it amounts to her supporting higher taxes on families and small businesses. In turn, Jennings accused Buchanan of misrepresentation and launched retaliatory ads questioning Buchanan's business dealings as "shady" and "corrupt." That sparked a Buchanan response ad accusing Jennings of launching personal attacks.

Buchanan said he favors making the current tax cuts permanent and supports Bush's plan to repeal inheritance taxes. He also said unnecessary spending, or pork, should be curtailed dramatically.

"It's really about spending, and we've got to put a freeze on spending," he said. "We don't need to take more money out of taxpayers' pockets."

War on terror

Neither candidate has come out strongly on the increasingly unpopular war in Iraq, with both generally saying they support eventual removal of U.S. troops.

Jennings contends the current U.S. strategy "is not clear" and has failed, and said military leaders - not politicians - should craft a new exit plan "to bring our troops home as soon as possible." But she has not offered a specific time frame or method for withdrawal.

Buchanan said he trusts the Bush administration, but fears Iraq "could become another Vietnam." He said he needs more information before deciding what should be done in Iraq, which he considers just part of the larger war on terror.

Buchanan said he supports President Bush's homeland security strategy, including more emphasis on ground intelligence, improving border and transportation security and spending more to improve emergency preparedness and response. Much of that should be spent in Florida, which he said is "vulnerable" because of its long coastline and large number of ports and airports.

He also said more money should be spent to develop a national missile defense system.

Jennings said Congress should follow and fully fund the 9/11 Commission's recommendations, but said terror-fighting efforts "have been compromised by locking up our military resources" in Iraq. She also said the U.S. should work to improve its diplomatic relations to help fight terrorists, including maintaining a strong relationship with Israel.

Social issues

The sharpest differences between Buchanan and Jennings are over a variety of social issues, such as abortion and stem cell research.

"I am pro-choice," said Jennings, who said she's "proud" to have the support of Emily's List - a grassroots political network dedicated to electing pro-abortion rights Democratic women to office.

She said more emphasis should be placed on reducing unwanted pregnancies, and favors research using embryotic stem cells.

Buchanan opposes embryotic stem cell research, saying researchers should be encouraged to use adult stem cells or umbilical cord cells instead. He also opposes federal funding of abortions and said parents should be notified before their underage daughters obtain abortions.

"We must protect the sanctity of life," he said.

Buchanan, a hunter who's a National Rifle Association member, also said the right to bear arms needs protection from "national anti-gun groups, extreme liberals and Hollywood types." Those who use guns illegally should be punished more harshly, not gun owners or manufacturers, he said.

On other issues, both candidates largely agree on:

• Opposing oil drilling off Florida's Gulf Coast.

• Recouping a larger share of gas-tax money Florida sends to Washington and the Manatee-Sarasota area sends to Tallahassee.

• Calling for greater accountability and ethics in Congress.

• Supporting creation of higher-paying jobs in the district and diversifying the area's economy.

• Putting Social Security on better financial footing and honoring commitments already made.

Buchanan also said he wants more money for red tide research and favors greater parental choice in which schools they send their children to and placing limits on medical malpractice suits. He also said he would work to expand Department of Veterans Affairs health-care services south of Tampa Bay, secure funding for the proposed veterans cemetery in Sarasota County and oppose a proposed increase in Tricare enrollment fees and co-payments.

Jennings said she also opposes the Tricare fee increases and supports making full funding of veterans benefits and health care services mandatory. She said she also would push for a "21st Century G.I. bill." She also supports development of alternative fuels, increasing tax credits and scholarships for college students and allowing the legal importation of prescription drugs.

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