KeepHealthCare.ORG – Democrats in Congress race talk guns, health care, decency – News – Daytona Beach News-Journal Online
Mark Harper @markharper36
Florida’s 6th Congressional District remains Trump Country, represented by Ron DeSantis, rated among the most conservative of Republicans.
Because DeSantis, who easily won re-election to the seat in 2016, is now a leading contender for governor, there is a mad scramble involving both Republicans and Democrats, and the stump speeches have begun. As candidates hone their messages seeking donors and support, Republicans are in a contest to determine who can best carry out President Trump’s agenda in the district that includes all of Volusia and Flagler counties and portions of St. Johns and Lake counties.
Democrats Stephen Sevigny, Nancy Soderberg and John Upchurch, meanwhile, are campaigning for resistance and change. Here’s a look at how they’re making their cases during recent stump speeches in Volusia County.
Upchurch emphasizes roots: Upchurch, who was born in St. Augustine and graduated from Seabreeze High School in Daytona Beach, launched his campaign on Jan. 30 at One Daytona with backing from some of Daytona Beach’s bigger political figures, including Lesa France Kennedy, CEO of International Speedway Corp.
But his fundraising totals have yet to become public, so it’s unclear how competitive he’ll be with Soderberg from a campaign finance standpoint. At a March 10 meeting of Indivisibles, though, he and Soderberg stood together fielding questions from the progressive activist group.
“I’m an advocate for people and I stand up when I see things that are wrong. And what’s going on right now in Washington is wrong,” Upchurch said. “And I don’t believe that anybody has done an effective job of advocating for District 6 for many, many, many years.”
He promised to pursue better cost-of-living increases for folks living on Social Security, greater spending on local infrastructure projects such as flood control, and better-paying jobs for the district.
On guns: Upchurch advocated for an assault-weapons ban and talked about how his mother had been a public school teacher.
“There is no reason that my mom should be expected to be a teacher and a security guard and a police officer,” Upchurch said. “That is just ridiculous. … I told the school board that as a parent … I don’t want my teachers packing heat.”
Soderberg joined Upchurch in concerns about “Guardian” programs bringing more guns into schools by arming certain school personnel who volunteer for the duty. “I’m running to try and stop what’s happening in this country,” Soderberg said. “I think we all know what’s right and what’s wrong. It is wrong to have assault weapons available to civilians. Let’s get those off our streets.”
She said the Florida Legislature’s passage of a sweeping school-safety bill surprised her.
“I think raising the age to buy weapons is good. I think raising $100 million for mental health care, trying to get the three-day waiting period, and thank God Rick Scott signed it,” she said. “But no assault-weapon ban. We just have to stand up against that.”
What makes Soderberg nervous: “I’m nervous about the state of our foreign policy,” Soderberg said. “We have a president who thinks it’s OK to tweet whose nuclear button is bigger. Instead of picking up his phone with his secretary of state, tweets that diplomacy is a waste of time, but thank God with Korea, diplomacy seems to be becoming a first option, not a last option, so we all hope that works out.”
Still, Soderberg — a foreign policy analyst who served as a United Nations ambassador in the Clinton White House before joining the faculty at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville — has largely stuck to domestic affairs in posts on her website. There, she has taken positions including:
supporting young people involved in the March for Our Lives and seeking “common-sense gun legislation” free from the NRA’s influence;
decrying Florida’s rate of people without health insurance and bemoaning the destabilized health-care market. “Unless our political leaders come together soon to make necessary fixes, our health-care system will continue its downward spiral,” she wrote.
opposing the “irresponsible” Republican tax cuts, which she predicts will cause the elimination of “widespread benefits.”
Health care headaches: Soderberg is joined in her concern about the dismantling of Obamacare by Sevigny, a radiologist.
“When I have a patient present with 3 centimeter breast cancer and positive lymph nodes, it breaks my heart,” Sevigny said. “When I then look back and realize they haven’t had a mammogram in four to five years, it’s a tragedy. We know that if that woman had had access to a mammogram two to three years ago, that breast cancer would have been more curable.”
Sevigny said all Americans should have a right to access essential health benefits such as mammography.
Instead, he points to Big Pharma’s efforts lobbying Congress, about $250 million in 2016. That’s about five times more than NRA spending on lobbying.
“We need to elect people that put our values above profits,” Sevigny said. “We need to put people above power.”
Running to win: At the March 10 Indivisible meeting, Lynn Hendrickson, a retired nurse from New York who now lives in Palm Coast, asked Upchurch why he waited until it was apparent DeSantis was not running before he made his announcement.
“I decided to run when I thought there was a chance that I could make sure that we could flip this seat from red to blue,” Upchurch responded. “I also knew I didn’t want to spend two years running for a seat. … It takes a lot away from my family. … I saw about December that this seat could be won, and I wanted to make sure the voters had the best person that could beat the Republicans. I think that’s myself.”
Soderberg, who entered the race in July, well ahead of other candidates, chimed in: “I’m not afraid of hard work. I’ve been doing this for a year. I saw this possibility to change the country and I went for it.”
Sevigny stresses decency: Sevigny, who wasn’t at the Indivisible meeting, talked about why he entered the race at a March 20 meeting of the Democratic Club of Northeast Volusia County.
He said his wife, Gina, didn’t like the idea, but he convinced her to support him by running through a list of qualities they both want to see in their congressman — someone who’s ethical, honest, hard-working, accomplished and “from our area … but most important, we wanted someone who had our values.”
“Values such as protecting the most vulnerable, like with Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security. We wanted people who realized that the economy should work for everybody, not just Wall Street,” he said. “And also, selfishly, we wanted decent people. You know, I have a 13-year-old daughter, and growing up in this toxic environment for her politically is, is … we’re the greatest country in the world. We need leaders who are decent to each other.”