Republicans and Democrats agreeing on a major issue – It seldom (if ever) happens lately in national politics.
But on a state level, Republican Sam Killebrew and Democrat Bob Doyel, competing for Florida House District 41, agreed on the critical issue of education in the state of Florida.
There are too many tests and perhaps not geared to finding children’s progress so much as to grade teachers or schools, they said in front of a Polk County Tiger Bay luncheon in Bartow Wednesday.
Both men, of course, support the state giving the vacant agriculture office building, Nora Mayo Hall, located in the district, to the city of Winter Haven.
District 41 covers the eastern portion of Polk County. It is currently held by Rep. John Wood, a Winter Haven Republican, who will have reached his eight-year term limit on Election Day.
Killebrew and Doyel each won their respective party’s primary, Aug. 30. No Democrat has won the seat since 1998 or any other legislative seat in the county for that matter.
The Democratic Party, not known for vigorous active campaigning for its candidates, is “pulling out the stops” for Doyel, a retired circuit court judge, because of the changing face of the district. More people who work in Osceola or Orange counties are among those moving into the northeast portion of the county.
But Killebrew is well-known for his contributions to the Republican Party both financial and through his candidate recruiting. A retired contractor, he completed several projects in the district.
They (state education officials) have tied teachers hands by all of this excessive testing, said Killebrew, whose wife teaches in the Polk County school system. His wife has helped him understand what changes are needed in Florida, he said.
“She says we need to get the federal government out and have mostly the state involved,” he said. “But we need to do testing by counties not one state standard test because there are differences,” he said.
Doyel gave a similar opinion on education and testing.
“We need to take a close look at testing. If that is what we call an education standard then we are in real trouble,” Doyel said
“The tests don’t take into account if the child is hungry or couldn’t sleep the night before because of poverty…or homelessness,” he said.
There were plenty of differences between the two men on other issues.
Unlike many Tiger Bay Clubs where members rise from the audience, sometimes in a confrontational manner that wastes time, Polk club members submit their questions in writing.
Asked for their opinion on legislation likely to come before the Legislation in 2017 that would allow people to openly carry a gun, Doyel said he is “adamantly opposed.”
Killebrew said 45 states allow open carry permits. Open carry permits are stricter and require stiffer checks he said.
Both men strongly disagree on a proposed medical marijuana amendment proposed for the state constitution.
“It should not be in the state constitution. This one is bad but not as bad as the one two years ago (which was defeated),” Killebrew said.
‘’It still is not handed out by pharmacies, but private shops and a caregiver can buy for up to five people,” he said.
Doyel said he, too, was opposed to the issue being a constitutional amendment such as the one outlawing the penning of pregnant pigs which was passed some years ago.
“I support it, but not just on medical marijuana,” Doyel said. “As former law professor, I am concerned about teenagers who get caught with a very small amount of marijuana and have their futures destroyed with prosecution.
“I think for those small cases there should be a citation,” he said.
On expansion of Medicaid coverage Killebrew is opposed and Doyel supports it.
With a question asking each candidate’s position on abortion, Killebrew said: “I am pro-life.”
Doyel said, “I wish it were that simple, but that runs counter to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.”
From a political junkie’s viewpoint, both candidates were almost too nice to one another.
Both wisely called for additional funding for citrus greening. Polk County dropped from first in production of citrus in the state to third and the main agriculture research center is located in District 41.