Buchanan, Good War Over Coronavirus At Debate

Todays News

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY MONDAY BUSINESS EDITION MONDAY OCT 26, 2020

A debate between U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, and Democratic challenger Margaret Good, a state representative, turned pointed and personal at various times on Friday. Both candidates for Congress laid out plans for navigating the COVID-19 pandemic and restoring the national economy.

The two met in Palmetto for a debate hosted by Manatee Education Television that will repeat regularly before the election.

Buchanan noted his office felt the tragedy of the pandemic on a personal level, reminding a district staffer, Gary Tibbets, lost his life to the coronavirus. “I think he was the first staffer in Congress that we’ve lost,” Buchanan said. “But we’ve been engaged from Day One. With China, back in January we wanted to stop the flights. We’ve supported and tried to push telehealth, which is something very important for seniors who are taking advantage of that now.”

He’s also pushed to ensure when a vaccine becomes available, seniors will receive it for free.

Good noted this Congressional district serves as home for a disproportionate number of retirees and individuals over 65, who statistically face the greatest risk of death from the coronavirus.

“We have so many seniors that are worried about getting sick,” she said. “Their family, their friends are getting sick. Some of them are dying. We’re spending too much time in isolation. We have got families who are experiencing economic insecurity for the first time in their lives, and we have a failed response, frankly.”

Good said the pandemic has run out of control thanks to a lack of contact tracing and broader testing, along with more transparency from federal leaders about the impact the virus delivered on individuals lives. “When I get to Congress, I will make sure that we treat the public health crisis like what it is, a crisis,” she said. “I will follow science and I will follow the experts. And I will work to ensure that we provide relief for the people that need it. There are still a million people in Florida that are unemployed through no fault of their own, and unfortunately our current Representative has turned his back.”

She trashed Buchanan for companies connected to him accepting $7 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans while he voted against extending unemployment.

But Buchanan countered the problems facing Floridians who could not receive timely assistance stem from a broken state system. Florida’s CONNECT website, put in place under Gov. Rick Scott, crushed under a flood of claims early in the pandemic as layoffs began, and there’s now an investigation into the now universally criticized system. While Good criticized a position Buchanan took on continuing to offer extended unemployment, he said he supported the original rescue package. But in three state legislative sessions, lawmakers did nothing to overhaul the state system, Buchanan said.

“I supported unemployment, and I agree with you, we have one of the worst systems in Florida in the country. And that’s your job, not my job, to fix that,” he said. “You had three years and you did nothing. You have no track record of getting anything done.”

Voters in U.S. House District 16 will vote on Nov. 3.

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