In a congressional candidates’ forum in Orlando dubbed “community conversations,” 14 Republicans, 10 Democrats and three independent candidates provided a few unexpected ideas, such as:
Soaring rents in Orlando are due at least in part to illegal immigrants pouring into America from the southern border.
Inflation and product shortages are because China controls inventories for the United States.
Federal antitrust laws should be enforced against investment companies buying up and controlling large numbers of rental homes and apartments.
Pharmaceutical companies should be banned from advertising.
If tariffs on Canadian lumber imports are removed, American housing costs should ease.
They also offered plenty of standard partisan splits and talking points on topics such as gun control, abortion access and greenhouse gas reductions.
There were a few surprising party crossovers.
CD 10 Democrat and former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, for example, called for tax cuts. CD 7 Republican and former Orange County Commissioner Ted Edwards backed universal background checks for gun purchases.
The forum featured responses to questions from 27 candidates across Florida’s 7th, 9th and 10th Congressional Districts, set into two discussion groups.
In groups that large, it was easy for some candidates, even prominent ones such as CD 10 Democrat Maxwell Alejandro Frost or CD 7 Republican Rusty Roberts to disappear in the crowd. It also offered dark horses such as CD 10 Democrat Jeffrey Boone or CD 10 Republican Peter Weed chances to catch the crowd’s attention at the Orlando Science Center.
“The rent is too damn high. And the tolls and the taxes are too damn high,” Grayson said.
“You cannot bring, in two years, 4 million people into this country and not expect it to affect the cost of housing. We’re not building housing for 4 million people in two years. We have more competition for housing,” said CD 7 Republican Ted Edwards. “We need to reduce the demand for housing by securing the southern border.”
“The 22% tariffs that was placed on imports from China raised the prices by 22%. A lot of those goods we need,” added CD 10 Democrat Khalid Muneer.
The economy played heavily into the candidates’ comments Thursday.
“The cost to build a house mainly resides on lumber. We’ve got to remove the tariff off lumber coming from Canada for three to five years, and that way we can get the cost down,” argued CD 7 Republican Al Santos.
“We need to remember that drug companies spend more on marketing than they do on R and D,” contended CD 7 Democrat Al Krulick. “They tell you that they need the money to do research, but they’re spending it mostly on these commercials. Let’s do what they do in New Zealand; let’s ban drug companies from advertising on television.”
“We need to slice out all the taxes that hurt us,” said CD 10 Republican Cal Wimbish.
“Small businesses can’t hire people,” said CD 10 Republican Thuy Lowe. “This is why: we don’t have enough resources. We have to talk about the salaries. The high salaries are hurting a lot of small businesses.”
Health care also got a fair share of attention.
“We need to make sure we have insurance for everyone. … If your insurance with your company does not cover all of your costs, perhaps there could be some supplemental insurance that you could opt into through the Affordable Care Act. But the main thing is to make sure we all have insurance — not Medicare For All, insurance for all,” Boone said.
“I believe that Big Pharma is out of control. I believe we need to absolutely have more competition. … Other entrepreneurs like Mark Cuban and GoodRX have come in and offered good competition,” said CD 9 Republican Scotty Moore.
Among the other highlights:
— “I am very excited about the bipartisan transportation bill that was passed. What does that mean for us? A trillion dollars for roads, bridges, transit. Transportation is the engine that puts people to work,” said CD 10 Democrat and former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown.
— “We do not control our inventory. China controls our inventory,” said CD 10 candidate Tuan Le. “First we have to bring manufacturing back to America from China.”
— “I believe that in this country, in the greatest country on the face of the Earth, every person deserves access to health care. Everybody deserves the right to be healthy by virtue of being a human being,” Frost said.
— “The key to the problem is spending. We need to reduce spending. We spent $6 trillion in three different bills for COVID, flooding the marketplace with money,” Roberts said.
— “We have large corporations who are controlling the rent. And they’re gouging people. This goes back to antitrust laws. When you have large businesses who are monopolizing business, then you have price gouging,” said CD 10 Democrat Natalie Jackson.
— “The more government involvement we have in our health care system, the higher the prices will go,” argued CD 9 Republican Jose Castillo.
— “It started with government stepping in, telling us that we needed to close our doors, paying workers to stay home. And we never, ever recovered from that,” added CD 7 Republican Erika Benfield.
— “We have too many children on both sides of the aisle. One thing we do need is adults in Washington. As a business owner. I understand how to make a deal. I understand how to negotiate for the best. Sometimes my employees don’t understand why we make some decisions,” said CD 7 Republican Scott Sturgill.
— “We can make energy prices more predictable by investing in green energy sources,” contended CD 10 independent candidate Jason Holic.
— “Economics 101: During the pandemic, demand went down, so production went down. When the pandemic was over, demand skyrocketed, especially because people had a lot of money they did not spend during the pandemic. It takes a while for the supply to increase to meet the demand. When you have more money chasing less goods, you have inflation. It’s not the cause of any particular administration in Washington. It’s a worldwide problem. It’s going to take time to ease,” Krulick said.
The forums were hosted Thursday night in Orlando by the Orlando Sentinel, Spectrum News 13 and AARP. The questions were posed by the moderators, Sentinel columnist Scott Maxwell and News 13 anchor Ybeth Bruzual.
The forums, which gathered 14 candidates for CD 10 in one discussion, then 13 candidates combined for CD 7 and CD 9 in the other, was not fully attended. Many of the leading candidates, including CD 9 incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, CD 10 Democratic candidate state Sen. Randolph Bracy, and CD 7 Republican candidates Brady Duke, Cory Mills and state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, were conspicuous by their absences.
Other no-shows at the forum were Democratic CD 7 candidate Karen Green, Democratic CD 10 candidate Jack Achenbach and Republican CD 10 candidate Willie Montague.