Judithanne McLauchlan explains why she filed for bankruptcy in the late 1990's

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Earlier this week, the Republican Party of Florida went for the jugular in a new television ad that mentioned that Senate District 22 Democratic candidate Judithanne McLauchlan had a) filed for personal bankruptcy, and b) "was part of a group" that supports an income tax in Florida.

McLauchlan immediately responded to the latter charge, calling it "repulsive" and saying that she has always opposed a state income tax in Florida (the ad skillfully and perhaps unfairly did not ever say she supported a tax, but that she was part of a group - The League of Women Voters - who has endorsed creating an income tax).

But she didn't respond to the charge that she had filed for bankruptcy - until now.

In an email sent to her supporters titled "Setting the record straight," McLauchlan explains that a medical situation caused her to get into debt when she was a college student in the early 1990's, and says that experience allows her to better relate to what middle-class families are enduring right now in Florida, particularly when it comes to dealing with high health care costs.

Here's an excerpt:

As a full-time student in the 1990s I was the proverbial “starving graduate student” – trying to get by on a modest stipend. Making ends meet in those years was tough. These financial difficulties were exacerbated by the high cost of health care insurance.

During this time, I was experiencing significant health issues. The health insurance I needed to cover the costs of my tests and treatment was too expensive for me to afford — almost as much as my monthly rent. So for several years I took on debt to pay for the insurance. Without the insurance my medical bills could have skyrocketed, and I was terrified of losing the insurance and later being denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition.

After the surgery, my health was better than it had been in years, and I got a job with benefits. Yet, even with my increasing salary, the debt from years of living on the margins was too much. Ultimately, I filed for bankruptcy 16 years ago.

Today, I am healthy, and my family has no debts, except for the mortgage on our home in Pinellas County. I am happy to say my daughter Peggy was born in 2005, and I had no complications, thanks to the amazing medical care I received in St. Petersburg.

The medical problems and financial problems I experienced as a young woman in the 1990s taught me a lot and have given me a passion to fight for everyone’s ability to access higher education and affordable health care.

McLauchlan, a USFSP political science professor, is challenging one of the wealthiest men in the Florida Legislature in Republican Jeff Brandes in the SD22 seat, which encompasses portions of mid and southern Pinellas County, the Gulf Beaches and South Tampa. Brandes was initially elected to the House by beating Bill Heller in 2010 and took the Senate seat (without Democratic opposition) in 2012.

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