A congressional debate quickly turned acerbic as two candidates argued which one worked most collegially with others.
U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan listed accomplishments through his first seven terms, calling Democratic opponent Margaret Good unaccomplished. Good, a state lawmaker, called the incumbent Republican corrupt.
A Manatee Educational Television debate brought the candidates in Florida’s 16th Congressional District together in Palmetto to tackle issues. There, the two agreed on such broad principles as protecting the environment and preserving Social Security. But for every question, the debate ultimately turned into a chance to knock one another with now-familiar jabs.
“My job is to go out and fight for our communities on these issues, and that’s what I’m going to continue to do,” Buchanan said. “That’s the issue with Margaret with zero bills and nothing accomplished.”
Buchanan regularly raised passing 22 bills over 14 years, the foundational messaging for his campaign this year. At one point, good questioned that, saying she had looked for and never seen a collected list of bills. However, within moments, the Buchanan campaign had blasted out a list of achievements introduced by Buchanan and either passed outright or included in other legislative packages.
Good focused her attacks on Buchanan personally enriching himself from his seat in Washington. She repeatedly raised the money collected by Buchanan-tied companies this year through the Paycheck Protection Program.
“He took $7 million of PPP for himself, but when it came time to help us with unemployment benefits, he voted against it, and that’s wrong,” Good said about Buchanan. She attacked him to vote for a tax cut and enjoy 83% of the benefit, while voting against the Affordable Care Act and other consumer protections.
“I’m tired of it.”
As far as the issues, Good focused much of her remarks on the environment. Infrastructure improvements funded from Washington should include more than roadways, she said. They must also include things like water quality infrastructure.
Good acknowledged Buchanan had fought for and received funding for red tide and other restoration projects, but said there is a need for more proactive actions to prevent waterway destruction in the first place.
Besides noting the $100-million research funding project for red tide he and Democrat Alcee Hastings fought for in the House and $50 million in local spending for Wares Creek, Buchanan reminded the audience that he had fought the duration of his term against oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. That included times when his own Party leaders ran on “Drill, Baby, Drill” platforms. He said thanks to his position as co-chair of the Florida Legislative Delegation and being the only senior Florida member on the Ways and Means Committee, he has been able to safeguard Florida’s coast regardless of which party served in the majority any given term.
Both stressed a willingness to fight their own party leadership on issues. Good said despite characterizations to the contrary, she is opposed to “defunding the police,” She added that she wouldn’t support single-payer health care in Washington, sounding more Joe Biden-esque in seeking a public option that taxpayers pay into.
Buchanan repeatedly dinged Good for serving in the Legislature for three Legislative Sessions but passing no bills. Good countered that she passed one in 2019, though Florida House records do not show any of her personal bills passing.
“I know people in Tallahassee, and you have no friends on the other side of the aisle,” he said. “That’s why you haven’t gotten anything done.” He noted half his legislative achievements passed under Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and he referenced a good working relationship with Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer.
For her part, Good pointed to bipartisan work on the Clean Waterways Act, particularly regarding stormwater regulations. She was among the staunch Democrats championing that bill this year on the House floor before it passed unanimously. She also noted a town hall held with Sen. Joe Gruters, chair of the Republican Party of Florida, on seeking red tide solutions as a way of proving she has cross-aisle relationships.
“My opponent has been in Washington [for] a long time, and it’s clear he knows all the tricks. He pulled out a lot of them today. But that’s not how we should do things,” Good said. ”I am so sick of politicians who say one thing at home and do another in Washington.”