Republicans running for the nomination in Florida’s second congressional district took the stage for a debate in Tallahassee Thursday night.
The Florida Family Policy Council—a lobbying organization with a social conservative bent—hosted the debate at Florida State University’s Turnbull center. Candidates took on issues like firearm restrictions, Obamacare, and bucking leadership in Congress. But generally speaking the nominees took positions in agreement with one another. On the topic of minimum wage small business owner and former cop Jeff Moran offered a brief demonstration.
“Lets do a poll in here,” he said, “How many of us have ever worked for minimum wage?”
Nearly every hand in the room went up. But when he asked, “How many of us are still doing it?” all those hands went down.
“It’s not supposed to be a living wage, ok?” Moran said in triumph.
So-called bathroom bills have become a recent flashpoint in the GOP. North Carolina legislation forcing people to use the restroom of the sex they were assigned at birth has raised the ire of the Department of Justice but support among many Republicans. Former Federal prosecutor Ken Sukhia teed off on the issue.
“If you have a sex stereotype that you want to be like that day you just simply are that you identify that and that gives you the right to walk into a women’s restroom—and we’re the odd ones here?” he asked.
“We’re the goofballs and the people who are being mistreated—or are mistreating them?” he continued to broad applause. “No, we are the normal ones.”
But a more perennial issue is abortion. And Rick Scott administration attorney Mary Thomas is unequivocal on the issue.
“When we’re dealing with cases such as rape or incest, a horrific crime has been committed against a woman,” Thomas said, “and the person who committed that crime must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and punished.”
“But we cannot allow an innocent baby’s life to be taken to pay for the crimes of another,” she concluded.
Panama City Surgeon Neal Dunn doesn’t take quite so hard a stance.
“I do think that there’s room in our laws to recognize some special cases where the mother’s life is at stake—truly at stake, and in cases of rape and incest, otherwise I see no exceptions,” Dunn said.
At the close of evening, organizers held a straw poll. Sukhia won the competition rather handily with 42 percent. Despite carrying the most endorsements, Dunn came in third—narrowly beaten by Thomas. Moran was a distant fourth.