Democrat Alex Sink and Republican David Jolly sparred side by side for the first time in the special election to replace Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.) on Monday night.
The two candidates used their first debate of the campaign to hammer home themes they’ve been developing since day one of the election: Sink painted Jolly as a Washington lobbyist, while Jolly characterized Sink as a carpetbagger and rubber stamp for Obama’s agenda.
Sink and Jolly are deadlocked in a tight race for Florida’s 13th District, a swing district that narrowly went for Obama the past two presidential elections but was held by Young for decades.
Republicans believe ObamaCare will be a losing issue for Sink, and Jolly said Monday night that Sink wants to "further the agenda of President Obama” and knocked her for her support of the health care law.
Jolly also charged that Sink is a political opportunist, noting she moved to the district to run for the seat.
Sink said she supports fixes to the law, including a repeal of the medical device tax but emphasized, “we cannot go back to where we were,” a common refrain for Democrats facing Republican attacks on ObamaCare.
In attacking Jolly, Sink focused heavily on his lobbying background, charging that Jolly “made a decision to go through the Washington revolving door” and become a lobbyist after leaving Young’s office.
Jolly’s faced local headlines about his lobbying work, most recently on his work for a conservative group that has promoted controversial proposals for Social Security reform, among others.
But Jolly pushed back against those attacks, declaring, “I’m not going to be the voice of special interests … I’m going to do your work.”
Libertarian Lucas Overby also participated in the debate, characterizing himself as an outsider up against two candidates deeply steeped in politics.
Though Sink entered the race the presumed front-runner, multiple polls, both public and internal, have shown Jolly within the margin of error or even leading the Democrat. The competitiveness of the race has prompted outside GOP and Democratic groups to spend heavily in the district. On Tuesday, two GOP groups launched new ads in the race.