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Congressmen Jolly, Grayson Debate For US Senate Seat

Stephen Melkisethian/ flickr

Two Florida Congressmen went head to head Monday, in the first debate for an open US Senate seat.

David Jolly, Republican of Indian Shores, and Alan Grayson, Democrat of Orlando, spoke amicably Monday, in a forum hosted by the bipartisan Open Debate Coalition.  Notably, Jolly broke with party leadership, saying Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland deserves a vote, before getting denied.

“Rejecting the nominee because he is wrong on the 2nd amendment and he is wrong on labor unions is not obstructionism. That’s actually the proper exercise of the Senate’s article one authority. If they bring it up for a vote, vote him down,” Jolly said.

Both lawmakers are pushing campaign finance reforms, and favor open primaries. Grayson wants to break up big banks and expand abortion access, and says climate change is the biggest threat to the country.

"I can't think of anything else that could literally destroy the planet, other than climate change," Grayson said.

For Jolly, terrorism should be the nation's top concern.

“When the president of the United States stood before a State of the Union address and said the greatest threat we face is climate change, he’s wrong. The greatest threat we face are people who want to destroy the United States of America tomorrow. And that’s what we need to address,” Jolly said.

Online news anchors moderated the debate, which featured questions that were posed by internet users and voted up by Florida residents. Organizers hope the open format is used for other congressional or presidential debates. The Open Debate Coalition boasts an eclectic network of supporters: Grover Norquist of Americans For Tax Reform, Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post, Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia, former strategists of the Republican National Committee, and MoveOn.org.