Clearwater, FL -- The three-candidate forum Tuesday featuring Democrat Alex Sink, Republican David Jolly and Libertarian Lucas Overby was more of a "Q and A session" with an occasional zinger.
Nothing like the mudslinging going on in local advertising.
"They're just things that have been pulled out from the Rick Scott - what I call - 'mean machine playbook,' " as Sink described it.
The hotly contested 13th Congressional seat, long held by the late C.W. Bill Young, has become a battleground of scare tactics. And to hear it from the candidates themselves, some are outright lies.
See Also: Jolly breaks silence on fatal car accident
"We shouldn't play fast and loose with the truth. This is about being a community servant," said Jolly.
One of the hot topics which seemed to play well with the business-minded Chamber of Commerce crowd was Obamacare.
Jolly and Overby seized every opportunity to label the program a "job killer that is going to continue to stall middle-class jobs," said Overby.
"It's an example of two very different views of government," added Jolly.
Sink, who supports the Affordable Care Act, later jabbed at Jolly for what she calls shifting political positions just two weeks ahead of the election - on environmental issues including climate change and preserving social security.
"I heard with my own ears David Jolly say that social security is not guaranteed. That happened in the last debate. I heard something different today," said Sink.
National media is also taking an interest in the race.
The debate moderator used a baseball analogy to explain it, saying this early special election is like the lead-off hitter. What happens in District 13 could set the tone for the rest of the game of congressional races around the country that will come later this year.
Here are some of the other questions put to the three candidates and a brief synopsis of their answers:
Q: How will you help maintain the defense dollars and contracts that Bill Young helped bring to MacDill, Bay Pines, and other military spots in our region?
Sink: Foster the same kind of bi-partisanship
Overby: I'd rather close 3 bases around the world, keep MacDill open, & protect our shores and jobs here at home
Jolly: I was with Bill Young when those decisions were made and will work to maintain them by continuing to work with defense leaders, and the Florida Federal Contractors Association
Q: Economists say we're not in a recession, but people still feel like we are.
Overby: "You bring back the middle class and you won't feel like we're in a recession.
Jolly: Obamacare and federal programs create uncertainty and hurt job growth.
Sink: We're not in that bad shape. Tourism is likely to set records for a third straight year.
Q: What do you intend to do about tax reform?
Jolly: I'd prefer a maximum tax, not minimum. Fairer and flatter.
Sink: We need tax reform. Close big business loopholes that allow corporations to pay no taxes.
Overby: It's not lobbyists, it's the current Congress doing mutual favors that makes taxes too complex.
Q: Social Security. Boomers are most fearful. Are your ads ignoring the youngest generation?
Sink: It's been earned. I don't want my 25-year-old daughter to get to 65 and worry.
Overby: If you pay in, you deserve it, but I would oppose footing the bill for stop-gaps vs. real solutions.
Jolly: I want to preserve Social Security by reforming it to ensure its solvency.
Q: What's your opinion on using drones - foreign or domestic?
Overby: Opposes use of drones for bombings in areas without permission. Opposes domestic use.
Sink: Should be regulated and licensed. Has good applications if used responsibly.
Jolly: It's a due-process issue. Valuable tool as long as rights are preserved.
Q: Do you favor term limits?
Jolly: I don't. The only term limit you need is an election. If I don't deliver, "then throw me out."
Sink: I don't. It should be left to the ballot box.
Overby: I do. It's hard for third parties to get in without them. Term should be long enough for effectiveness but not "too long to be bought and paid for."
Q: Would you be willing to cut Congress' benefits?
Jolly: Yes. Make them live with the same benefits, like Obamacare.
Q: The U.S. Senate passed an immigration bill. Would you vote for it in Congress?
Overby: Yes. "An excellent first step."
Sink: Yes. We don't need to put people in a position of hiring undocumented workers.
Jolly: No. It opposes a pathway to citizenship for "lawbreakers."
Q: How would you handle rising waters on our shores due to global climate change?
Jolly: Climate change is occurring. Trust local and state workers to handle the issue.
Sink: Jolly originally said he doesn't believe in climate change. "To stick your head in the sand and say we don't have to deal with these issues is ludicrous."
Overby: Explore more alternative energy. Not willing to commit federal dollars to rising water issues.
Q: Flood insurance. What would you do to mitigate this long and short term?
Sink: Four principles for reforming the system on my website include stopping rate increases and speaking with FEMA about justification.
Overby: The "fix" doesn't help vacationing homeowners. Open it up to private insurance.
Jolly: Immediate delay needed. Protect commercial and vacation property. Include all regional disasters.
Q: Energy alternatives including drilling and fracking.
Overby: Should be "state decision" on drilling. Opposes fracking in Florida.
Jolly: Supports current 230-mile ban. Explore untapped oil leases before.
Sink: "Adamantly opposed to drilling in Florida waters."
Q: What's the best course regarding gun control and mass shooting in America?
Jolly: Supports second amendment rights. Favors background checks.
Sink: Supports second amendment but wants to "close loopholes" innocent citizens "should not be subjected to gun violence."
Overby: Help people with mental health programs which have been "regulated out of existence."
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