Mitch Perry Report for 9.28.16 — Our bodies, our politicians

During the first half-hour or so of Monday night’s presidential debate, there was plenty of chatter on Twitter on what appeared to be a case of the sniffles being suffered by Donald J. Trump. Former Vermont governor and NBC News commentator Howard Dean speculated it might have to do with cocaine use.

“Notice Trump sniffing all the time. Coke user?” he tweeted, which has now gotten him into a lot of hot water.

Now, I’m not going to spin a few words about the dangers of social media and how one should be careful, especially in the high-energy mindset that people get on Twitter trying to outwit one another watching the debate live.

No, I want to go to what Dean said about why he made such a diagnosis from afar.

“He sniffs during the presentation, which is something that users do. He also has grandiosity, which is something that accompanies that problem. He has delusions,” Dean said. “He has trouble with pressured speech. He interrupted … Hillary Clinton 29 times. He couldn’t keep himself together.”

Maybe some of that problem with “pressured speech” is what we know about Trump’s habits. He supposedly doesn’t get more than four hours a sleep at night, eats poorly and doesn’t get any exercise.

Clinton told People magazine in 2014 that yoga and water aerobics were her exercises of choice, and sometimes brisk walks. Her recent health issues have become an issue over the past month, certainly.

I would suggest this stuff actually matters. Trump is 70, and Clinton will be 69 next month. Because they’re roughly around the same age, the issue hasn’t been mentioned as often as it has when similarly aged people ran for the White House.

Ronald Reagan was 69 when he was elected president in 1980, and though I didn’t follow that election cycle that closely, I do remember his age was always an issue. And it certainly was in 2008, when a 47-year-old Barack Obama took on a 71-year-old John McCain. There was lots of talk about McCain’s age, though in retrospect that was unfair, as the now 77 -year-old McCain is running for another six-year term in the U.S. Senate.

I’m always amazed at how many Americans don’t work out on a regular basis. Statistics show this to be a fact; I also ask basically anybody I ever get to know well if they work out (it comes from being somebody who has run six days a week since I was in high school).

Should this be mentioned more often? I’m not sure. But if we’re going to spend another day talking about Trump fat-shaming a former Miss Universe winner, maybe we ought to look closer at the health habits of the two people who will end up leading our great nation over the next four years.

In other news …

In Monday night’s debate, Hillary Clinton took Donald Trump to task for “stiffing” people who worked for him. Two of those folks she mentioned hailed from Florida. 

There were a lot of TV and digital ads released yesterday.

The Democratic House Majority PAC went after David Jolly and his record on abortion rights. Hours later, a Jolly super PAC released an ad featuring a reporter questioning Charlie Crist’s credibility.

The Stonewall Democrats of Pinellas County blasted Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark for conducting voter registration events at Chick-fil-A restaurants around the county.

HD 68 Democrat Ben Diamond put up his first television ad of the general election season.

After Donald Trump said he had a “winning temperament” in Monday night’s debate, the super PAC backing Hillary Clinton, Priorities USA, released an ad questioning that statement.

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Latest David Jolly digital ad questions Charlie Crist’s credibility

David Jolly’s campaign in Florida’s 13th Congressional District race placed a new digital ad Tuesday featuring a speechless Charlie Crist.

The only voice in the 30-second ad appears to come from a member of the Palm Beach Post’s editorial board in 2014, when Crist was running for governor. The unseen board member recites a number of position changes Crist has made during his political career.

“You were for the economic stimulus then against it and then sort of for it,” says the unseen voice, as Crist sips a Diet Coke and takes notes. “You’ve had several positions on the healthcare law and different positions on parts of the healthcare law. You were against expanded oil drilling, and then you were for it, including near Florida, and then you were against it. And you were against running as as independent, and then you ran as an independent.”

After a slight pause, the editorial board member asks Crist, “Could you explain where you think your credibility is after all of these position changes?”

The was paid for by the Friends of David Jolly, a political committee supporting Jolly’s candidacy.

Earlier Tuesday, the House Majority Pac released a new TV ad running in the Tampa Bay area that compares Jolly’s stance on abortion rights with Donald Trump’s.

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David Jolly campaign reacts to ad that depicts him as ‘out of touch’ on a woman’s right to choose

A new ad produced by the House Majority PAC features several Pinellas County women describing Congressman David Jolly as “dangerous,” “backwards,” and “out of touch” when it comes to a woman’s right to choose. But the Jolly camp responded by finding a 10-year-old newspaper story where Charlie Crist is quoted as saying that he would support a harsh anti-abortion bill.

The ad, entitled, “One Word” focuses on Jolly’s pro-life stance in Congress, and equates it with Donald Trump’s stance on the issue.

“From opposing a woman’s right to choose to denying women basic health care, David Jolly and Donald Trump both represent a big step backwards for Pinellas County and the country,” said House Majority PAC Executive Director Alixandria Lapp.  “Their shared agenda clearly is dangerous, backwards, and out of touch. By every measure, David Jolly is just not for women in FL-13.”

Jolly has voted twice for a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, as well introducing legislation to defund Planned Parenthood.

The House Majority PAC aims to get as many Democrats elected as possible to Congress. They have previously announced that they intend to spend more than $1.4 million in the CD 13 race to help get Crist elected.

“We knew it was coming,” responds Jolly campaign spokesman Max Goodman in an email to supporters, referring to the third-party attack. In his response, Goodman also includes a 2006 article written by the Associated Press that says that if elected Governor, Crist says he would sign a harsh abortion bill similar to one that had recently been enacted in South Carolina.

When asked by a Roman Catholic Priest whether he would sign a bill like South Dakota’s abortion ban, which only allows the procedure to save a woman’s life, Crist quickly answered “Yes I would.”He later clarified that the South Dakota law, set to go into effect July 1, is too restrictive, and he would only sign a ban if it also allowed abortions for victims of rape and incest. Crist added, “Promoting a culture of life is preferable to me than passing laws.”

“The beautiful irony of these attacks, and why they’ll undoubtedly backfire, is that Mr. Crist is the candidate in this race who actually personifies Washington’s ‘war on women’ mantra,” said Goodman. He also includes a sound link of Crist boasting of his pro-life record when running for governor.

The Crist campaign reacted to the Jolly campaign’s statement.

“Rep. Jolly may believe he has to attack Governor Crist with Trump-like insults to win, but it will backfire for him, like it did after their debate,” said spokesman Kevin Cate. “Governor Crist has been personally pro-life, but believes in protecting a woman’s right to choose. That’s why as Governor he vetoed invasive ultrasound legislation, and as State Senator he stopped an unnecessary 24-hour waiting period. Crist’s record stands in stark contrast with Jolly’s extreme agenda, in which he’s voted against women’s personal health choices at every opportunity.”

While running for Governor in 2014, Crist said that he hadn’t changed his view on abortion restrictions. PolitiFact called the claim “Mostly False,” writing that “Crist has always been all over the map on abortion.”

“One Word” begins airing today on broadcast and cable TV in the Tampa Bay media market as well as digital platforms.

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Charlie Crist calls for Deborah Clark to open an early voting polling station in South St. Pete

A day after St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman called on Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark to open a polling place for early voting in south St. Petersburg, Charlie Crist echoed that call on Saturday.

“As Florida’s Governor, I signed an executive order to expand early voting hours, to ensure as many people can participate in the electoral process as possible,” Crist wrote Clark on Saturday. “It was the right thing to do. I encourage you to do the right thing for the people of Pinellas, and add an additional early voting location in South St. Petersburg.”

Clark’s office reiterated Friday that with such a high level of voting-by-mail in Pinellas County, there is no need to go beyond the locations already planned to hold early voting once it begins later next month.

In last month’s primary election, more than three quarters of all votes cast – 76 percent – came via mail, while only 2 percent occurring during early voting.

On Friday, Kriseman joined the Revs. Manuel Sykes of Bethel Community Baptist Church and Louis Murphy of Mt. Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church in calling for another early polling site in South Pinellas County. Of the five early voting locations scheduled to be in use for early voting, none are in South St. Pete. The closest is at the Court House, 545 First Ave. N.

Although Crist has been accused of flip-flopping on some issues, voting rights is not one of them. The then Republican Governor of Florida alienated his GOP brothers and sisters in 2008 when, at the bequest of Democrats concerned about the lone lines at early voting locations, expanding early voting“I have a responsibility to the voters of our state to ensure that the maximum number of citizens can participate in the electoral process and that every person can exercise the right to vote,” he said at the time, adding that, “this is not a political decision. This is a people decision.”

Here is Crist’s letter to Clark:

September 24, 2016

Deborah Clark
Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections
13001 Starkey Road
Largo, FL 33773

Dear Ms. Clark,

I write this letter strongly urging you to heed the community’s request to add an early voting location in South St. Petersburg.

With extraordinary turnout levels expected for this year’s presidential election, we can assume there will once again be long lines for the people to exercise their constitutional right to vote. While civic participation is a wonderful thing, multi-hour waits can be an undue hardship for many in our community.

While voting by mail is an excellent option, many voters prefer to vote in person at the polls — and voters deserve more choices, not less. At present, many South Pinellas residents would have to travel more than five miles to reach the closest early voting site. For those without reliable transportation or those utilizing public transit, that distance presents an unreasonable barrier to voting early.

And for a community that has been historically disenfranchised, adding an early voting location in South St. Petersburg would ensure equal opportunity to take part in one of our most sacred rights of American democracy.

As Florida’s Governor, I signed an executive order to expand early voting hours, to ensure as many people can participate in the electoral process as possible. It was the right thing to do. I encourage you to do the right thing for the people of Pinellas, and add an additional early voting location in South St. Petersburg.

Thank you and God Bless,

Charlie Crist

Crist will be on the November 8 ballot, as he is attempting to oust Republican David Jolly in the race for Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

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Marco Rubio latest lawmaker to call for the EPA to investigate St. Petersburg sewage issue

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio is the most latest Florida lawmaker calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to investigate St. Petersburg’s sewage crisis.

“It is important that residents know if their City leadership turned a blind eye towards the inevitability of a sewage spill at the cost of the local waterways and beaches,” Rubio writes in a letter penned to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “I welcome the EPA’s immediate assistance into this matter, and stand ready to work with you to fix these problems.”

The aftermath of the result of more than 150 million gallons of partially treated sewage and wastewater that was discharged into Boca Ceiga Bay and Tampa Bay from Hurricane Hermine has become a huge political issue for Mayor Rick Kriseman and his administration in the past week. Rubio’s entreaty to the EPA is following similar requests made by Tampa Bay area Congress members David Jolly and Kathy Castor. On Wednesday, Governor Rick Scott  ordered the state’s Department of Environmental Protection to investigate.

In his letter, Rubio references the comments made last week by Craven R. Askew, the chief plant operator at St. Petersburg’s Northeast wastewater treatment facility, who told city officials that a consultant’s report from 2014 stated that that sewage dumps and spills were possible if the city shut down the Albert Whitted sewer plant, which happened in 2015.

Kriseman says he never saw the report, and has called for an investigation to determine why.

On Wednesday, the mayor put two top city wastewater officials who were involved in the closure of the Albert Whitted plant on unpaid leave. One of them, engineering director Tom Gibson, signed the task order for that consultant’s report, the Tampa Bay Times reported on Thursday.

Rubio, a Republican running for re-election to the U.S. Senate this November against Democratic Congressman Patrick Murphy, also questions the transparency of the Kriseman administration in his letter.

“It is troubling that the City itself cannot agree on what was contained in the sewage released, and this begs the question of whether this was a factor in City officials’ decision not to tell the public about the release until five days after it occurred,” Rubio writes. In fact, a whistleblower, Mr. Craven Askew, claims the City was aware a sewage spill could happen and did nothing to halt the release.  It is my understanding that previous spills in 2015 and 2016 were conveyed by consultants to the City as early as 2014, and that City leadership chose not to act and instead moved forward with closing the Albert Whitted Water Reclamation Facility even after being advised against it.  It is important that residents know if their City leadership turned a blind eye towards the inevitability of a sewage spill at the cost of the local waterways and beaches.”

The full text of Rubio’s letter can be read below:

The Honorable Gina McCarthy

Administrator

Environmental Protection Agency

1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington, DC 20460

September 21, 2016

Dear Administrator McCarthy,

As Hurricane Hermine moved through the Tampa Bay region, it left in its wake an environmental issue that appears to have been wholly preventable and, as recently reported in a whistleblower complaint, should have been foreseen and dealt with a number of years ago.  Although the State of Florida is currently investigating the situation, I request the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assist the State of Florida in assessing this spill brought on by the City of St. Petersburg.

According to recent reports, the City of St. Petersburg released about 151 million gallons of raw and partially-treated sewage into Tampa and Boca Ciega Bays.  The exact amount of the release is actually unknown due to a broken flow meter out of the wastewater treatment plant.  The sewage release occurred after the City’s wastewater treatment plants were overwhelmed during Hurricane Hermine, a result of the City’s decision to close one of its plants in 2015.  I believe the residents of Pinellas County deserve to know what, and how much, was released into their waterways and how it may affect the water quality in the area.

It is troubling that the City itself cannot agree on what was contained in the sewage released, and this begs the question of whether this was a factor in City officials’ decision not to tell the public about the release until five days after it occurred.  In fact, a whistleblower, Mr. Craven Askew, claims the City was aware a sewage spill could happen and did nothing to halt the release.  It is my understanding that previous spills in 2015 and 2016 were conveyed by consultants to the City as early as 2014, and that City leadership chose not to act and instead moved forward with closing the Albert Whitted Water Reclamation Facility even after being advised against it.  It is important that residents know if their City leadership turned a blind eye towards the inevitability of a sewage spill at the cost of the local waterways and beaches.

Tampa Bay’s waters are a cherished and economically fruitful ecosystem.  I am concerned its rebounded sea grasses will suffer now and into the future, especially because we are not yet done with the current hurricane season and another storm could yield another disturbing spillage.  For these reasons, I welcome the EPA’s immediate assistance into this matter, and stand ready to work with you to fix these problems.

Respectfully,

Marco Rubio

U.S. Senator

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David Jolly offers protection to whistleblowers on St. Pete sewer spill

In addition to asking the Environmental Protection Agency to investigate St. Petersburg’s sewage crisis, David jolly is now offering whistleblower protection to anyone with information about the city wastewater spills.

Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the Indian Shores Republican has been working with Craven Askew, the plant operator who warned the city about shutting down the Albert Whitted wastewater treatment facility.

That closure led to the Northwest wastewater plant spilling nearly 60 million gallons of partially treated water into Tampa and Boca Ciega Bays as well as the watersheds of Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties after Hurricane Hermine struck Florida’s Gulf Coast earlier this month.

Askew has also called into question statements from the administration of St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman downplaying the public health risk from the spills.

According to a statement from Jolly’s office, the congressman is “encouraging any city employees with information about the St. Petersburg sewage spills to come forward to his office for assistance with whistleblower protection. It is clear that the community will only benefit from greater transparency – transparency that may only be possible through increased employee protections.”

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Five takeaways from the Charlie Crist-David Jolly CD 13 debate

TAKE 1: Who won? I would call it a draw. Both candidates got in zingers at the other and both successfully reinforced the message they are trying to sell to voters.

In Jolly’s case, he wants to remind voters he has been a maverick in his two-plus years in the U.S. House of Representatives. That’s especially necessary for this race in a newly redrawn district that would seem to favor Democrats.

Jolly made sure to stray from the Republican Party line when asked if he would support the GOP presidential nominee, Donald Trump.

“Donald Trump does not have my support today,” Jolly said. “I won’t be voting for Secretary (Hillary) Clinton, but I’m not there with Mr. Trump.”

He also showed his independent chops by saying, “I have tried to shatter the mold of modern politics.”

Crist, on the other hand, was reliably (and cautiously) Democratic in his responses, especially answering “absolutely” when asked if Gov. Rick Scott should push for expanded Medicaid protection in Florida.

Crist was his usual affable self, but Jolly managed to make him play defense a little while avoiding the trap of becoming shrill in the one-hour debate at St. Petersburg College on WTSP–Channel 10. That wasn’t easy to do. Breaking even in this tussle might be considered a win for Jolly in a tight race, which has national implications. But Crist didn’t do anything I saw that would damage his chances.

TAKE 2: The testiest exchange of the night came when Jolly tried to bring up the image of Crist once embraced as “Chain Gang Charlie” in 1996 when, as a member of the state Senate, he embraced Alabama’s practice of shackling prisoners in what was known as a chain gang.

Crist saw it as being tough on crime. Others saw it as hearkening back to the days of slavery, and Jolly went there in this debate.

“When you were in the Florida Senate, you coined yourself as Chain Gang Charlie. You stood on the side of the road over three African-American prisoners in chains on their knees on the side of the road,” he said.

Crist counter-punched hard.

“For you to suggest that it had anything to do with race is appalling, and it’s beneath you, and I’m embarrassed for you that you would say that about your fellow Floridian,” he said.

“The only concern that I had was for the citizens of Florida who were subjected to a violent crime every three minutes and 45 seconds. We were No. 1 in violent crime in America at that time. Some of the measures we took, including the STOP Act requiring 85 percent of sentences (be) served, has made Florida a safer place ever since. And of that, I am very proud.”

Jolly: “You cannot be the candidate today who embraces civil justice reform and did not have a second thought with TV cameras and news photographers taking photos that will live forever, that most viewers have not seen until tonight, that had you standing over African-American prisoners.”

Crist: “In all fairness, as the governor of the state of Florida, I was asked right before the election in ’06, ‘Charlie, if you’re elected, would you support automatic restoration of rights for former felons who are non-violent?’ David, just so you know how I feel, I am compassionate for people who are subjected to crime and I am compassionate to people who deserve to have a second chance. I don’t think the two are inconsistent whatsoever.”

Winner: Jolly. Bringing up Crist’s “Chain Gang” past is fair game, and it would have been nice to hear Crist state flatly that his views have evolved with the changing times. Either way, though, Crist opens himself up to the common charge against him of being a flip-flopper depending on who is listening.

TAKE 3: On the highly partisan question of whether illegal immigrants should have a pathway to citizenship or face, as Trump advocates, deportation with the possibility of returning to the United States through the legal immigration process, there was this exchange:

Crist: “I believe they should get a pathway to citizenship. I think it would be inhumane to take children away from parents and send them to different places. It’s unreasonable to deport 11 million people in the first place.”

Jolly: “I don’t support a pathway to citizenship for people who came here illegally. I do support a pathway to legal status and residency.”

Winner: Crist. The idea of deporting millions of people, as Trump champions, is ridiculous and unworkable. So what is left, especially for those who have been here for years and raised families while paying taxes and so on? Crist made the stronger point.

TAKE 4: On the ongoing problem of a massive sewage spill in St. Petersburg in the aftermath of Hurricane Hermine.

Crist: “What I don’t understand why our member of Congress, our representative of Pinellas County, which is at the epicenter of this problem, is not advocating day, after day, after day, for federal emergency help to get this cleaned up. Our country has done this for Flint (Michigan). Why can’t we do it for Pinellas County?”

Jolly responded: “May I? It is because the mayor who has endorsed you (Rick Kriseman) and oversaw this catastrophe has not asked for it. That’s why.”

Crist: “If you have to be asked when the people of your district are suffering, something is wrong.”

Winner: Crist.

TAKE 5: Line of the night. That goes to Jolly, who got in a great zinger against Crist with this quip: “Charlie, just because you’ve been a member of both parties doesn’t make you bipartisan.”

Winner: Jolly.

FINAL NUGGETS: The question that should never be asked goes to co-moderator Mark Rivera of WTSP–Channel 10, who probed deeply to both candidates, “What are your two favorite restaurants in the district?”

They live here. We get it. They don’t have to prove it.

On medical marijuana, Crist is all for it, as well you would figure since he is great friends with attorney John Morgan, who is a major advocate for marijuana as medicine. Jolly countered, “Only if the FDA approves it. We don’t approve medicines on the ballot. I don’t want my niece taking cold medicine or marijuana because voters approved it on the ballot.” And finally, the laugh of the night came when Crist said of Hillary Clinton, “I believe she is honest.” There was spontaneous laughter from the audience.

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Mitch Perry Report for 9.20.16 — Rick Kriseman works on turning it around

David Jolly seemed to take particular relish in last night’s debate, after Charlie Crist attacked him for being unresponsive to asking for federal help for St. Petersburg’s sewage problems post-Hurricane Hermine.

“Because the mayor who’s endorsed you who oversaw this catastrophe did not ask for it,” Jolly responded, which received a loud cheer from the crowd, which seemed evenly split among Jolly and Crist supporters.

It’s undoubtedly true the recent issues with sewage have become Mayor Rick Kriseman’s biggest challenge to date since he was elected 34 months ago to become the leader of St. Petersburg. Although many of the infrastructure issues preceded him into office, his failure to publicly disclose the fact that 58 million gallons of mostly treated wastewater out of the Northwest sewage plant has been his worse offense. And now he vows to do better.

“While we provided notification, future notification will be more robust without creating unnecessary alarm,” the mayor writes in an op-ed in Tuesday’s Tampa Bay Times.

“Another short-term goal is to give our residents ample opportunity to learn about our system and plans for the future,” Kriseman adds. “In the coming weeks and months, our public works administration will literally and figuratively open their doors. A public information session will be held so that residents are as aware of our infrastructure upgrades as they are about other, more flashy, endeavors. We also intend to welcome the community into our facilities to meet our team members, take a tour, and learn more about our operations. It may be a little smelly, but it’s a fascinating process and, along with public safety, a top priority.”

Kriseman is doing the right thing now. He’s also called for an investigation to determine why he wasn’t shown a consultant’s report warning that closing down the Albert Whitted Water treatment plant was the wrong way to go. Kriseman ordered the investigation immediately after the consultant, Craven Askew, came forward late last week.

There’s no doubt the mayor’s critics have exploited his miscues in handling this crisis, but that’s politics in the big city — especially when it comes to weather events. Or aren’t you familiar with how Ed Koch, Michael Bloomberg, and Bill deBlasio have had to do with how they handled the act of shoveling snow?

No doubt the mayor may be raked over the coals as both the local legislative delegation and the city council address the issue this week, but it need not be a fatal blow. It’s just time for that much-vaunted government term “transparency” to be employed “robustly” at 175 Fifth Street North.

In other news …

As mentioned above, David Jolly and Charlie Crist had at each other in a live, one-hour televised CD 13 debate Monday night at the Palladium Theatre in St. Pete.

Patrick Murphy came to West Tampa Monday, where he hoped to continue to build up his name ID with the Latino vote.

Kathy Castor is taking Dr. Samuel Wright to be her guest at the opening of the  National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. this weekend.

HART board member Kathleen Shanahan is calling for the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission to be abolished.

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David Jolly, Charlie Crist clash in electric debate in St. Petersburg

David Jolly and Charlie Crist went at each other hard for close to an hour in their first debate for Florida’s 13th Congressional District race at the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg Monday night.

It was good theater, and for those observing the event that was broadcast live on WTSP-10 News, the differences in the candidate’s positions were relatively stark and distinct.

Although the district is supposedly solidly Democratic after redistricting, Jolly would appear to be in fairly decent shape some seven weeks before Election Day. Although he is being out-fundraised, a St. Pete Polls survey released Monday (which did not include cellphones) had Jolly narrowly leading Crist, 46 percent to 43 percent. Jolly also polled better regarding favorability rankings with a 54/25 percent favorable to unfavorable rating. Crist was listed at 45/45.

The candidates clashed throughout the evening, with some of the fiercest sparks emanating from Crist’s decision to talk about the environmental crisis that has led the city of St. Petersburg to release 151 million gallons of sewage into the streets, as well as Boca Ciega Bay and Tampa Bay.

“What I don’t understand, is why our member of Congress, our representative of Pinellas County, the epicenter of this problem, isn’t advocating day after day after day for federal emergency help to get this cleaned up,” Crist said. “Our country has done this for Flint (Michigan). Why can’t we do it for Pinellas County?”

Jolly responded by getting in a dig in at St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, exciting the GOP partisans in the hall.

“Because the mayor who’s endorsed you who oversaw this catastrophe did not ask for it,” Jolly responded, getting a loud round of applause.

“If you have to be asked for help while the people in your district are suffering, something’s wrong,” Crist replied, getting almost as loud a reaction.

Jolly again blamed Kriseman for not standing up and said he’d be “happy” to work for the county as he has done for other cities in the district.

“Then why haven’t you done it?” Crist interrupted, keeping his foot on the gas. “Do you need an invitation to serve?” which generated the loudest cheer in the exchange. Crist said if he were in Congress, he’d at least be talking about the issue.

There were several other sharp conflicts throughout the evening, which actually began on the second question when co-moderator Mark Rivera asked the candidates were OK with permitting a woman infected with the Zika virus obtain an abortion.

Jolly, who is pro-life, said that he did believe in exceptions for abortion when it came to a woman’s health situation. After Crist had said he was proudly pro-choice, Jolly pounced.

“You were pro-choice, then you were pro-life, then you were pro-choice,” the Indian Shores Republican said. “As a Republican, when you had a chance to serve when you were in office you told the AP in 2009 that you would have supported an abortion ban in the state of Florida. It was only after you switched parties that you switched your position. This was not a matter of conviction for you; it was for political convenience.”

Both candidates came in well prepared.

Crist was more vulnerable, having switched political parties beginning in 2010, when he left the GOP to become an independent while running for the U.S. Senate seat, before making the complete switch to the Democratic Party in late 2012. But he took the offensive in explanation his ideological wanderlust, saying, “it’s not a sin.”

“If the values of the party at the time don’t comport with how you were raised by your family, I think you have a duty to yourself and your God, to do what you think is right, and represent the principals and values that you share, those of decency, doing unto others, doing what’s right for the people that you want to serve, and that’s why I’m a Democrat today and I’m proud of it,” Crist said, eliciting a hearty cheer from the audience.

Crist inadvertently provided the biggest laughs of the evening when he engaged with Jolly about how each candidate found themselves running in the CD 13 contest. Jolly painted his move as noble, and not political.

“Mr. Crist got into this race because the lines have changed,” he said. “I got into this race despite the fact that the lines had changed.”

Crist said he got into the contest only after the lines had changed because the new district included where he lived in downtown St. Pete.

Jolly fired back, “You bought a house in the district in St. Pete Beach that you later sold.”

Not true, Crist insisted. “My wife bought that house,” he said, which while factually accurate, didn’t pass the smell test with the crowd.

When it came for the time for the candidates to ask each other a question, Crist attempted to play the statesman, declining to offer a gotcha question to his Republican rival.

Jolly wasn’t about to let the opportunity go to waste.

Citing a Sarasota-Herald Tribune story, Jolly referred to Crist’s former life when he was known as being tough on crime “Chain-Gang Charlie” of the mid-1990s, when being tough on crime was de rigueur for conservative lawmakers. Jolly went into extensive detail about a Crist visit to Alabama, where he stood over black prisoners to say such a program would be good for Florida.

Crist appeared mortified by the story and chastised Jolly for getting racial.

“I’m embarrassed you’d say that about a fellow Floridian,” Crist said.

When each candidate was asked where they differed from their political party, Crist mentioned the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which does place him opposite Barack Obama and the platform of the Democratic National Committee, but safely with the growing mainstream of Democrats who oppose it, like Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

Jolly went a little loftier, saying that much of his political persona is a challenge to party leadership on issues like marriage equality, climate science, and his STOP Act, which would ban federal officeholders from personally soliciting campaign contributions.

“Look, in three years I’ve tried to change politics at great political risk,” he said. “And I think I continue to put Pinellas over Washington politics.”

Crist said at one point that Jolly lobbied for the privatization of Social Security, a charge the former D.C. lobbyist denied. “Well, you registered to lobby for it,” Crist said. Jolly did say Crist had endorsed his legislation to end taxation of Social Security.

Jolly showed off his preparation when he attempted to bust Crist regarding his support for raising the federal minimum wage to $12 an hour. He said Crist opposed the proposal when he served as a board member of Enterprise Florida in 2004 (that’s when Floridians voted to raise the minimum wage as a constitutional amendment).

To his credit, co-moderator Adam Smith took 45 minutes before asking whether Jolly had finally “gotten there” yet on whether or not he’ll support his party’s standard-bearer in November, Donald Trump.

“I’m not there with Mr. Trump,” Jolly said, his stock answer when asked the question.

After Smith had challenged him, Jolly said he wasn’t sure he ever would get there in November.

Crist had no such moral compunction when speaking affirmatively for Hillary Clinton, though he did elicit giggles when he said, “I believe that she is steady. I believe that she is strong. I believe that she is honest.”

Among those seen in the crowd were former St. Pete Mayor Rick Baker, SD 19 Democratic candidate Augie Ribeiro, and St. Petersburg City Councilman Karl Nurse.

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With first debate looming, David Jolly leads Charlie Crist 46%-43% in CD 13

A new poll shows David Jolly holding a three-point lead over Charlie Crist in the race for Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

The survey, conducted by St. Pete Polls for Florida Politics, has Jolly at 46 percent and Crist at 43 percent.

The Indian Shores Republican is ahead of the former governor despite the district breaking for Democrat Hillary Clinton over Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, 47 to 40 percent.

Buoying Jolly’s numbers is a strong favorable-to-unfavorable ratio of 54 to 25 percent. Crist’s favorability numbers are evenly split at 45 percent.

Even though Crist trails Jolly, there is room for improvement, according to the poll.

First of all, 11 percent of voters are undecided — a large amount considering how well-known both candidates are in the district.

Also, Crist is holding only 67 percent of the Democratic base, with Jolly earning 20 percent. Crist should be able to claw back some of that vote.

An internal poll for Jolly released Monday finds a tied race, with Crist and Jolly both at 46 percent.

Jolly and Crist square off Monday evening in what likely will be the only televised debate of the campaign.

St. Pete Polls’ survey had a sample size of 739 and has a 3.6 percent margin of error.

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