The special election to fill former state Rep. Mike Fasano’s seat is a hotly contested battle between Democrat Amanda Murphy and Republican Bill Gunter, who won a three-way primary race in September.
Murphy is a financial adviser and vice president for Raymond James. She is a Pasco County native and a first-time candidate.
Gunter, a Presbyterian minister, has lived in Pasco County for more than a decade. He sought a county commission seat in 2012, losing to incumbent Jack Mariano in the primary.
District 36 encompasses coastal Pasco County west of Little Road. Early voting will continue through Saturday at the West Pasco Government Center. Absentee ballots must be returned to the Pasco County Supervisor of Elections no later than election day, Oct. 15.
The Pasco Tribune posed questions to Murphy and Gunter on issues in the race.
Q. Do you agree with Gov. Rick Scott’s position that Florida should accept federal funding to expand Medicaid? If not, how do you propose to improve health coverage for Florida’s 3.8 million uninsured residents?
Murphy: I agree that we should have accepted federal funding to expand Medicaid. We have a duty to make sure that Florida citizens have access to affordable and quality health care.
Gunter: No. Because when you dig down, it doesn’t even solve the problem of providing lower income people with quality health care outcomes. Medicaid is broken. It’s rife with fraud. There’s no access. And health care outcomes are the worst of any health care delivery system. But saying no is not acceptable. We must find an answer, and it’s moving health care to a model of direct relationship between the purchaser and the provider. You do this with giving individuals real control over the health care spending.
Q. What do you think needs to be done to “fix” Citizens Insurance?
Murphy: Citizen’s property insurance rates need to be capped at their current levels or decreased. Pasco families and taxpayers already face enough difficulties without having to worry about how Citizens is going to find new ways to add to their financial burdens.
Gunter: In Pasco, Citizen’s isn’t the insurer of last resort, it’s the insurer of only resort for most of us. Why, two reasons: hurricanes and old homes, and sinkholes. If we want to move to fix insurance, we have to end the sinkhole craziness. We mandate on the state level to fix the sinkhole and stabilize the home. Fixing the sinkhole can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars whereas stabilizing the home can be as low as 25,000. If we end the fix the sinkhole mandate, we could see companies coming back into Pasco. We must keep the cap rate increases as is because I do not believe you can simply rip something away from people that have relied on this insurance coverage for years.
Q. Are there any divisions of state government that should be privatized or outsourced? If so, which one(s)?
Murphy: No, I believe that a shift of current roles taken on by the state government to the private sector would result in a lack of access for those on fixed incomes.
Gunter: It’s something that should be asked each and every year but isn’t. If we did, I can guarantee you we’ll find programs, divisions, maybe even agencies that have outlived their purpose.
Q. Should Florida abandon “Common Core?” Please explain.
Murphy: No, common core curriculum makes sense when it comes to educating our children. For those families that move from state to state there will now be a set standard, which will help in recruiting families and entrepreneurs to our state.
Gunter: We should seek to have the highest standards in the world and then hold our education establishment accountable on meeting those goals. If that’s a Florida set of standards then I’d support it. I think we must look at it all and figure which standards achieve the greatest outcomes for our school children. When we put student achievement first, and it’s real and measured, everyone wins.
Q. What is your position on Florida’s Stand Your Ground law?
Murphy: I fully support Florida’s self-defense laws. I am a gun owner and a personal supporter of the Second Amendment.
Gunter: I totally support it.
Q. Should Florida follow the lead of states such as Texas and North Dakota to enact restrictions on abortion access? (i.e., require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at local hospitals or require clinics to meet surgical center standards?)
Murphy: I believe that women should have the right and ability to make decisions pertaining to their medical health. I do not believe that we need extra restrictions, such as requiring clinics to meet surgical center standards.
Gunter: I’m pro-life, but what you’ve asked is a medical issue. Every law we pass should make sure that all patients are provided the highest level standard of care from all medical providers. Would any of us support even a tooth extraction in an inferior surgical center or allow a doctor who has no admission privileges at any hospital to work on our family members. No. If this is occurring in Florida, it needs to be addressed.
Q. As state funding for higher education is reduced, colleges and universities are raising tuition, placing a greater burden on parents and students. What, if anything, should the state Legislature be doing to keep college affordable?
Murphy: I believe that we should use revenues to invest in our future. If I’m in Tallahassee, I will not vote for cuts to higher education or tuition increases without substantive increases to need-based student financial aid. Education has been a promise that pays off. I fear with the recent Legislature that those promises are being sold for a lower-quality education that costs students and parents more.
Gunter: We need to create laws that let the money flow where the measurements, standards, and accountability are best. We need to allow the free market and competition to balance out the tuition rates. This is happening now as we speak. In the next decade you’ll be able to get a college degree without ever leaving your home. It will be more accessible and cheaper and still have quality instruction. What we need to do as a state is prepare for this wave.