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Republican Candidate Forum

Tom PattonMonday night, the four candidates for the Republican nomination to fill Jim King’s 8th district Senate seat met at the First Coast Republican Club. About 200 club members and guests attended the meeting, and I was privileged to have been asked by the club leadership to moderate the discussion.

I love these kinds of events. I thrive on being involved, and frankly, I have just enough of an ego to enjoy standing up in front of an audience like that to facilitate the discussion.

We covered a broad range of topics, starting with taxes. In a room full of Republicans, it’s difficult to find anyone who advocates a tax increase. Florida faces another year of revenue that is unlikely to keep pace with spending, the candidates all advocated reductions in spending, though there was some discussion of how the tax base is shifting. With property values continuing to fall or remaining flat, new home construction nearly at a standstill and tourism slow, Florida is struggling to find the money to balance the budget. The candidates all advocated further cuts in spending as the most obvious way to bring the state’s budget into balance.

On education, the candidates all agreed that it is one of the state’s highest priorities. Accountability among students, parents, and administrators was another ongoing theme amongst the candidates.

Jacksonville’s port is going to be the main economic engine for the region. For this area, it will be the principal job creator in the near to mid-term. They will, for the most part, be solid, middle-class blue-collar jobs that people can get without a college education.

If you’re wondering why I’m not giving you specifics, well, mostly as the moderator, I didn’t have an opportunity to make notes during the candidates answers, and the last thing I want to do is misrepresent what was said by anyone. I wasn’t there as a reporter, I do know that Republicans have a strong field from which to choose in this election. There is a wealth of experience both in and out of government. Because the candidates all come from basically the same place, the voters decisions will largely be based on who can best represent the district. The broader issues are extremely important, but the district issues are important as well.

The most important thing, though, is for voters to go to the polls and vote. Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland said after last week’s Tiger Bay meeting that he expects no more than a 12 or 13 percent turnout for the special election next month. With the primary closed only by write-in candidates, the winner of the Republican primary will more than likely be the de-facto winner of the seat, and will hold it until the scheduled election rolls around in 2010. The estimate is that the candidate who gets 9000 votes on the 15th of September will be the winner of the seat. So if you are a registered Republican in the 8th Senate district, it is very important that you go to the polls and vote.

And again, my thanks to the First Coast Republican Club for the opportunity to moderate the forum. The consensus among the candidates was that it was the best event of the campaign. There are plenty of elections to come between now and the City elections in 2011, and I hope we’ll have more opportunities to present candidates to the FCRC, and that you’ll come join us.

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