TAMPA — In the third and final debate in the District 13 congressional race, Republican David Jolly on Friday responded to an advertisement about his position on women’s issues, namely abortion.
A recent ad paid for by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Commission says Jolly opposes abortion in all cases, even rape and incest. It features a clip of him replying to a question at a Feb. 3 candidate’s forum regarding the landmark Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, that legalized abortion.
He said Friday that opposing the court decision doesn’t mean he thinks all abortions should be illegal.
“That was a ‘yes or no’ question,” Jolly said. “If you overturn Roe V. Wade does it ban all abortions? Absolutely not.”
The debate at a WEDU studio attracted local and national media, as the three candidates hoping to replace U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young move closer to the special election on March 11.
Though tamer than those watching the increasingly vicious race had expected, Jolly expressed frustration with the attack ads painting him a misogynist.
“You’ve been endorsed by an extreme organization that wouldn’t provide for abortion, even in the case of rape and incest,” Sink said.
Jolly has been endorsed by a range of conservative groups, including National Right to Life, which endorsed him in the primary race over state Rep. Kathleen Peters. Sink, meanwhile, has substantial backing from the likes of EMILY’s List, a group that supports Democratic female candidates who champion women’s rights issues, primarily the right to choose.
“Alex, you continue to misrepresent me on that,” Jolly said Friday. “I have never said that I would ban all abortions. Your commercial attributes that to me. I have embraced exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.”
Sink said she was glad he clarified his position; Jolly said he was glad she asked.
“Because it’s important that we get it on the record,” he said after the debate. “I am pro-life. I have embraced the exceptions from the beginning of the race.”
Opposition to Roe v. Wade is something Jolly shares with the Libertarian candidate in the race, Lucas Overby, albeit for different reasons.
“I do have strong philosophical concerns with Roe V. Wade, as do most hard progressives on it, actually,” Overby said. “I am in favor of full protections for privacy for everybody, but that especially applies to women in this case. For privacy, for right to self-determination in medical procedures and the right to not be blocked from them.”
The Florida Democratic Party issued a statement criticizing Jolly on women’s issues.
“At today’s debate, Lobbyist David Jolly continued his long record of lying to Pinellas residents – and now Jolly is willing to say anything to distract from his own record of making seniors, veterans and middle class families pay more, while protecting unfair tax breaks for corporations and the wealthiest few,” it read.
Sink also asked him about his position on equal pay for equal work.
“I believe that wage discrimination on gender is and should be illegal under the 1963 Equal Pay Act and the 1964 Civil Rights Act. I’m on record for that as well,” Jolly said. “You have misrepresented my position on television. You’ve done it with people in the community and voters deserve better.”
The Florida Democrats’ email begged to differ, linking to a news story in which he is paraphrased saying he opposes the Paycheck Fairness Act, but not the concept of equal pay for equal work as a whole or the laws he mentioned in the Friday debate.