The House District 57 race is one of the most competitive in Florida state politics this year, which is why today's Tiger Bay debate between Democrat Stacy Frank and Republican Dana Young was highly anticipated, and did not disappoint in reflecting the clear and vast differences in opinion and philosophy between the two candidates in the district, which encompasses South Tampa, Westchase a Town N' County in Hillsborough County.
A robust crowd gathered in the rehearsal space of the Straz Performing Arts Center, and heard Young espouse her support of conservative values in her opening statement, saying she's running because of a "deep, deep frustration with government. A frustration with a government that is out of touch with the people they're supposed to represent."
Both candidates spoke on what seems to be the dominant sentiment being expressed by voters this year - that they want to slow down government spending and are frustrated by their current leaders.
Stacy Frank emphasized several times how she is a fiscal conservative, blasting "reckless spending," by the Legislature, as well as how she understood the pressures as a businesswoman of trying to make a payroll.
Young made similar remarks, though as one Tiger Bay member commented, she was directing them at her own political party, which has controlled the state capital for over a decade. Young said there were times when she did not agree with her party, and her frustration with the fiscal situation in the state is one such time.
One table at today's event was filled with some of the most prominent South Tampa critics of Frank's controversial work with her company, Collier Enterprises II, where she has a contract with the Hillsborough County School District to install cell phone towers on school campuses. Two of those critics, Lisa Williams and Carrie Grimail, posed tough questions to Frank. Williams asked how did she think that "antagonizing residents" would help her campaign, while Grimail asked how she could assure neighborhoods that say they don't want cell phone towers that she will listen to them about other issues as a state representative, "when you won't even listen to us in your own backyard?"
On the first question, Frank flat out avoided a response. On Grimail's question, she said that her goal would be to have an open door policy, saying, "I will listen to your thoughts, I will listen to your concerns. I may not always agree with you, and if I don't agree with you I'll tell you why..." Afterward, Grimail said she was unsatisfied but not surprised at Frank's response, saying "she doesn't listen to us, she doesn't care what we think, and if she gets elected, it will be the same story."
Dana Young took a direct shot at Frank at that point, saying that she had walked the district twice and listened to the voters, and "they do want someone who will listen to their concerns to try to find working solutions. As I look around here today, I am listening to what they are saying, I've seen the articles in the paper about the towers and I've read them and I understand them. I am listening to you. I do not think my opponent is listening because if she has, she would have listened to the pleas of all of these parents who did not want cell towers on their children's public schools." To which she received some applause, while Frank sat there, smiling.