Democratic candidates in District 15 Race Spar in virtual debate

voting booth (file)

COSTY EAST HILLSBOROUGH, Fla. – The three Democratic candidates competing for the chance to turn the seat of Congressional District 15 in this fall’s election took part in a virtual debate on Friday, re-voting voters on their viability to live in November to win.

What you need to know

  • Representative Adam Hattersley, Alan Cohn, Jesse Philippe took part in a virtual debate
  • Winner will face either incumbent representative Ross Spano or Scott Franklin
  • District 15 covers parts of Hillsborough, Polk, the lake’s counties
  • More stories about elections in 2020

Even now that the incumbent operator of GOP Ross Spano is under federal investigation for alleged campaign finance violations, it will take a great effort for a Democrat to win the Florida 15th Congressional District seat this fall.

The seat (which includes parts of Polk, Hillsborough and Lake counties) has been occupied by Republicans for a generation, so it made sense during Friday’s Democratic virtual debate at the Tampa Tiger Bay Club for the state of Rep. Adam Hattersley to brag about his moderate bona fide, such as the fact that he’s been approved by the Congressional Blue Dog Coalition.

“I was not registered with either party before I decided to go for office,” said the Riverview Democrat and Navy veteran, when asked how to appeal to GOP and independent voters in November.

But to get the chance to challenge Spano (or Lakeland City Commissioner Scott Franklin, the Republican who challenges Spano in the GOP base), Hattersley has to appeal to the Democratic base in the August 18 qualifying round – like opponent Alan Cohn noted.

“He’s just become a Democrat to run to the office. I’ve been a lifelong democrat and Democrats want a Democrat, ” said Cohn, a former award-winning television news reporter. “You know that the Blue Dog Democrats don’t share the values ​​that we have in this congressional district.”

The third Democrat in the race, former U.S. Marine Jesse Philippe, said the only way anyone in his party can beat a Republican is to talk about things that directly affect voters.

“People want to hear a message. They don’t want to hear idealism. They want to know how we are going to improve their lives, ”said Philippe. “Because if we come in and talk – talk to them about issues that we’ve talked to them about for thirty years and have gone through nothing, people won’t come out.”

National protests come up for discussion

With the country (and the entire world) protesting daily against racism and police brutality following the death of George Floyd while under the care of Minneapolis police last week, candidates were asked what they would do to address police issues if they were elected to Congress.

Hattersley said he was incredulous that Plant City Police would reject body cameras and still buy a military-style vehicle (as in 2017), adding that he would support proposals to racially diversify police forces and increase sensitivity and de-escalation training to improve.

Cohn bragged about an investigative story he reported on police brutality in Massachusetts that led to a federal lawsuit against a group of agents before fooling Hattersley for sending a fundraising email this week referring to the Floyd tragedy before asking for campaign gifts asked.

“I don’t think that’s possible, and that’s one thing I would never do,” said Cohn.

Hattersley apologized and then took a chance on Cohn for not being present at a Black Lives Matter rally in Lakeland last Sunday where Phillipe was also present.

However, Philippe got the final say in this exchange.

“Guess what. I’m black. I’m African American. I’ve lived it. This is not a report,” said Philippe. “I’ve seen the discrimination. I was stopped because I am black. So I experienced it. “

He added that he thought Hattersley’s email was wrong and George Floyd’s life and death outweighed politics.

Candidates’ positions on other issues

Cohn later attacked Hattersley to the point of raising the minimum wage to $ 15 an hour. He lifted his phone to play a music video from a Fox 13 interview last September, in which Hattersley responded to a question about whether he was in favor of raising the minimum wage.

“Yes,” he said. “But not necessarily up to $ 15.”

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed a $ 15 federal minimum wage bill in the summer of 2019, but it went nowhere in the U.S. Senate. Some Democrats, like Michigan’s Rashida Talib, have called for an increase of $ 20 an hour.

Foreign policy was mentioned only once during the hour-long forum on relations with China, which has taken a sour turn through the COVID-19 crisis.

Philippe said the US should begin to move away from dependence on the Chinese economy and reinvest in Latin American markets.

Hattersley said he supported Stephanie Murphy’s proposal by the Orlando Democratic Congressman to assess the US response to COVID-19, the Chinese government’s response to the outbreak, and the US’s excessive reliance on China for critical supplies.

Cohn said President Trump was not wrong to attack China on trade, but said tariffs on goods he imposed on the communist country eventually bite American farmers for “billions of dollars.”

The Tampa Tiger Bay Club is a two-part organization, and the organizers said they contacted the two Republicans in the race, Spano and Scott Franklin, but both declined to participate.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has listed the race as one of their top ten in the country they hope to return this fall, but the Cook political report this week the CD15 race was still called “Leans Republican”. That’s with Spano as a candidate.