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David Jolly casts himself as beleaguered outsider in forum with Charlie Crist

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

U.S. Rep. David Jolly and former Gov. Charlie Crist had two sharply different approaches to the audience at a candidates’ forum Thursday sponsored by the Gulfport Area Chamber of Commerce.

Jolly, a Republican, pictured himself as a man abandoned by his political party and attacked by the other party when all he wants to do is create a “third way” of crossing the aisle and creating consensus between differing views.

Jolly warned the audience that in the waning days of the campaign, they could expect to see $3 million to $4 million of false advertising criticizing him for his stance on Planned Parenthood and ties to Duke Energy and Donald Trump. He urged the audience not to believe those ads.

“It’s all lies,” Jolly said.

His party has abandoned him, in part, he said, because of his sponsorship of the “Stop Act” to prohibit members of Congress from asking people for campaign contributions. Elected officials, Jolly said, spend too much time asking people for money and not enough time doing the job they were elected to do.

But Jolly said he wants to continue fighting.

“I’m willing to take the headwinds in Washington,” Jolly said.

The problems in Washington won’t be solved, Jolly said, until there is campaign finance reform, open primaries, and fair redistricting.

An example of his willingness to work with others, Jolly said, was reaching out to St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman to offer help with that city’s sewer issues. Jolly said he made that effort despite “what I believe to be Mayor Kriseman’s failed leadership on the sewers.” But, he said, Kriseman has yet to respond.

On the other hand, Jolly said, when whistleblowers approached him about problems in the St. Petersburg sewer system, he acted. The result is a federal investigation.

Crist talked briefly about the situation in Washington, saying people are tired of the bickering and arguing. That’s why a change is needed, he said.

He also spoke of devoting his entire adult life to service and said he would continue serving the people if elected. The people would be his boss, he said.

If elected, Crist said he would support Social Security and raise the salary cap on contributions to the fund.

“It’s not a privilege, it’s something you earned,” Crist said.

Crist also professed support for veterans, saying he did not believe enough could be done for them.

Asked to name specific accomplishments during his tenure as governor, Crist listed automatic restoration of voting rights for non-violent offenders, the appointment of the first African-American to the state Supreme Court, raising teachers’ salaries, and doubling the homestead exemption.

Congressional District 13 covers a portion of Pinellas County. Early voting ends Nov. 6. The general election is Nov. 8.

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