BayNews 9 & Tampa Bay Times to host debate for CD 13 candidates on February 3

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Pinellas County’s Congressional District 13 hopefuls will meet in February to make the best arguments for who will replace the former U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young in the March 11 special election.

“A Conversation with the Candidates,” presented by the Tampa Bay Times, Bay News 9 and St. Petersburg College will broadcast the event Feb. 3 from 7 to 8 p.m. at the SPC Campus, 9200 113 St. North in Seminole.

The debate will feature Democrat Alex Sink and the winner of the Jan. 11 GOP primary — Mark Bircher, David Jolly or Kathleen Peters. As of January 10, 78,527 mail-in ballots have been requested for the Republican primary, of which 28,820 (36.7 percent) have been returned to the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections.

Approximately 37 percent of the nearly 458,000 Pinellas County voters identify as Republican, 35 percent Democrat and about 28 percent claim independent, no party affiliation or other.

Times Political Editor Adam Smith joins Bay News 9 senior anchor Al Ruechel to moderate the live televised debate, as a special edition of Political Connections.

Co-sponsors of the event are the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions and AARP.

“We believe this debate will not only inform the voters of District 13 but will air issues of great importance to the people of the entire Tampa Bay region,” Times editor Neil Brown recently told reporters. “A congressional seat has high stakes for all of us.”

For over two decades, The Times produced debates for local, state and federal offices, including races for Florida governor, Tampa and St. Petersburg mayors, the U.S. Senate and the 1996 national Vice Presidential Debate.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.