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CD 15 hopeful Greg Pilkington believes 2018 will be big for Democrats — including himself

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by
Greg Pilkington

is one of a handful of aspiring Democrats who have filed to challenge Dennis Ross in Florida’s 15th Congressional District next year.

Nevertheless, Pilkington may be the best organized of the bunch at this early point in the election cycle.

Since entering the race, he’s hired some political pros to help him in his attempt to win the crowded Democratic primary next summer. That includes campaign manager Stephen Madden, Blue Ticket Consulting’s Tom Alte as his campaign finance fundraising director, Laura Williams as his communications director, and Phyllis Whitney (who served as campaign treasurer for Democrat Alan Cohn in his 2014 race).

The 54-year-old Indian Lakes Estate resident comes to the race with extensive overseas experience, with his last position being an executive officer for budget and strategy at World Customs Organization, an intergovernmental organization based in Brussels, Belgium.

He also worked as a global project manager for DHL Worldwide Express, and as a program management adviser for FedEx Express.

“I think I have the skill set to be the kind of legislator that Polk County needs,” Pilkington said in an interview late Tuesday afternoon. He thinks the Democrats gains next year will be “impressive” and doesn’t believe the Trump presidency is going to improve before the 2018 congressional elections.

“If anything, I think things are going to get worse,” he said, about an hour before news broke that President Trump had fired FBI Director James Comey. “I think there’s something in the Russian dossier. I think there may be other stories that we don’t know about, and certainly the president has ample opportunities to continue to make the kind of poor decisions that he’s already made, so I think the Democrats have a very strong chance in 2018 — especially since Dennis Ross has aligned himself as a surrogate for Mr. Trump.”

On health care, Pilkington says he believes that the Affordable Care Act (which he says is a more appropriate term to describe it than “Obamacare”) had the right “intention,” but because it was subjected to approximately 60 attempts to be repealed vs. being improved, “that it became a very flawed piece of legislation.”

However, he’s a much bigger critic of the Republicans’ American Health Care Act that Ross helped pass last week and predicts that the Congressional Budget Office will surmise that between 24 million to 30 million people will be booted out of their insurance if it were to be implemented. Instead, he backs a single payer health care system.

On social security, Pilkington wants to eliminate the maximum Social Security tax cap from $127,200 to no limit on earned income. He also believes that the law mandating that people begin accepting their Social Security benefits at 67 be repealed to go back to age 65.

He supports comprehensive immigration reform and is vehemently against the measures the Trump administration has been talking about.

“It’s absolutely ludicrous that we would talk about spending $20 billion on a wall when what we should be talking about is using that money on renovating the 430 Veteran Administration facilities that are closed throughout the country, and maybe even converting them to public clinics-immigration centers, where people can actually go and apply for citizenship,” he says.

The other CD 15 Democratic candidates that have already announced include Ray PenaGreg Williams and Cameron Magnuson. 

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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