Sharp differences reflected in Stacy Frank-Dana Young debate in Tampa

On the issue of illegal immigration, one Latina questioner asked if the candidates supported legislation that would make her vulnerable to being swept up by the police (she added that she was of legal status). Frank replied that actually the number of illegal  immigrants in the state had been reduced recently by 375,000.

(Actually she didn't say illegal immigrants, but "illegal aliens," a word that supporters of comprehensive illegal immigration reform generally don't warm to).

Frank said the way she would deal with the issue in Florida was to create legislation that would cancel any company that had a contract with the state if it were proven that she was employing undocumented people.

Dana Young made getting tough on illegal immigration a central part of her primary campaign, and today said that "we have got a major problem in this country," when it comes to illegal immigration.  She agreed with Frank that the E-Verify system should be strengthened to penalize companies that employ such workers.  She said that it was important to see what happens with the Arizona illegal immigration law, and ultimately do "what is best for us," in Florida.

There were several humorous moments during the debate, including one in which Tiger Bay member Sydney Potter asked Young essentially if she would support Rick Scott for Governor, and if so, how could she justify that vote based on Scott's record of having his health care chain found guilty of Medicaid and Medicare fraud.  Young replied succinctly that she was a strong supporter for Bill McCollum in the primary, and left it at that.

Speaking of McCollum, like seemingly most of the Republican Party, Young supports the Attorney General's lawsuit to stop the federal health care bill from being passed. Like most Democrats, Stacy Frank does not.

Young is definitely a social conservative, but even so she seemed to surprise the dominant Democratic party audience  by refusing to take a stand on gay adoption, saying that she wanted to wait to see what will come out of the 3rd District Court of Appeal (where the case could be decided any week now) before giving her opinion, which appeared to be a giant dodge of the question.  It led to at least one Tiger Bay member to literally say, "boo" several times, prompting an admonition from Tiger Bay Chair Michael Steinberg (Frank supports gay adoption, calling it "unconscionable" that a state would bar a gay couple from doing so).

Although the issue of whether or not to end the 50 year plus embargo on Cuba is strictly up to the feds, Cuban activist Al Fox asked the candidates whether they supported continuing it (which Fox does not).  Stacy Frank said absolutely not, questioning why the U.S. trades with a noted nation that has indulged in human rights abuses in China, but not the Communist Island close to Key West.

Young said she did support maintaining that "if we put more money into the Cuban economy, that money will end up going to Fidel Castro, and not the people of Cuba."  She added, "I'd like for Miss Frank to tell what she just said to families in this community whose families lost everything to the tyranny of this communist regime..".

CL will be writing more about this race in our issue coming out next week.

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.

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