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SARASOTA COUNTY, FL — In the 2020 election, Sarasota County voters will choose the winner of the U.S. House of Representatives District 17 congressional race. Democrat Allen Ellison, Independent Theodore “Pink Tie” Murray and incumbent Republican Greg Steube are vying for the role.
Sarasota Patch recently sent out questionnaires to learn more about who these candidates are and where they stand on local issues. Below are the responses submitted.
Allen Ellison, 39, lives in Wauchula with his wife and daughter. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and has worked in business for more than 20 years.
The single most pressing issue facing our (board, district, etc.) is _______, and this is what I intend to do about it.
Ellison: COVID-19 is the single most pressing issue facing my district. COVID has claimed lives, hurt businesses and put thousands of people out of work in my district and millions around the country. I plan to use my office to help draft policy to curb the rising COVID numbers and get people back to work with good paying sustainable jobs.
What are the critical differences between you and the other candidates seeking this post?
Ellison: I have a vision for the future of our district and America. My vision is centered around improving the quality of life for all citizens. This means protecting our environment, securing social security, healthcare, the rights of women, veterans care, increasing disability benefits, making improvements to infrastructure and our educational system. It means creating good paying jobs, sustainable agricultural development and green solutions for a stronger, cleaner and safer environment for everyone to enjoy. It means bringing families back together and healing the social divide and conquering this pandemic. I fundamentally believe that the role of the American government is two-fold. Its primary function is to serve and protect the citizens of the United States. We serve our public through representation from members of Congress and we also serve the public though social programs as a benefit from being taxed. It’s a social contract between the governmental body and the citizens. We protect our citizens with the armed forces and law enforcement agencies. In contrast, my opponent is a fiscal conservative and does believe that government should play a role in providing social services to the people. My opponent’s ideology is centered around balancing the budget. I believe that balancing the budget should come through good governance, but not violating the social contract and hurting the people in the process.
If you are a challenger, in what way has the current board or officeholder failed the community (or district or constituency)?
Ellison: There would be about $435 billion for additional rebates, which would include an additional $1,200 stimulus check per individual. There would be about $382 billion for health care, which would include reimbursing health care providers for lost revenue, covering the COBRA premium costs for employees laid off between March 2020 and January 2021, increasing funding for testing and contact tracing, eliminating cost-sharing for coronavirus treatment, and increasing funding for health agencies and centers. Employers would also need to implement infectious disease control panels.
There would be about $290 billion to support small businesses and employee retention, with modifications to the Paycheck Protection Program. This would expand employee retention credit, provide credits for employer expenses, extend and expand paid leave (such as paid sick days, family and medical leave), and provide a 90% income credit for self-employed individuals. There would be about $290 billion to reduce income taxes and $191 billion for student loan relief and funding for higher education. There would be about $202 billion for housing-related costs and expenses, including the establishment of an emergency rental assistance fund and a homeowner's assistance fund.
Some eviction and foreclosure moratoriums would be expanded as well, being extended for up to another year and expanding the moratorium to cover all renters and homeowners rather than specific cases as previously done in the CARES Act. There would be about $190 billion for hazard pay for essential workers. In addition, there would be $32 billion for communication systems (such as the U.S. Postal Service), $48 billion for pensions and retirement relief, $31 billion for agricultural spending, and $254 billion for a limited business loss deductions.
So, whether it’s voting “No” on hurricane relief funding for Florida twice or proposing the dismantling of the Environmental Protection Agency, Representative Greg Steube has failed in his job to effectively represent all of his constituents along with his duty to the American people.
My opponent supports defunding Social Security and Medicare not even caring that it will deliver a devastating blow to seniors already suffering from this health and economic crisis.
Describe the other issues that define your campaign platform.
Ellison: Living in a pandemic that has claimed 220,000-plus lives and disrupted countless others, my top priorities will be strengthening healthcare, the economy, job creation, eradicating COVID-19, comprehensive immigration form, criminal justice reform, veterans care, securing social security, protecting the environment and Americans living with disabilities.
What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?
Ellison: I have (been in) cosmetology industry for over 20 years and it has taught me many things. It has taught me how to listen to people, how to connect, be open minded, how to be resourceful and solve problems. It has taught me that as public servants, we have an obligation to utilize our skills and resources to help people in need. One of the most important lessons that I have learned in life is that we each have a unique gift and everyone’s gift is equally important. My gift is helping others. It is there when I am at my best. As I grew in my sense of purpose, I realized that I could maximize my gift by affecting positive outcomes through policy. So, I went back to school to study the inner workings of government and in 2007, I graduated from Florida Southern College with my degree in political science. I have help over 300 businesses to get established. I have drafted and developed international policies p
Why should voters trust you?
Ellison: I think a better question would be why should voters vote for you and I would say to that question that The voters of Florida should vote for me because I am the best chance at getting them what they need to live the best quality of life possible. Voters should vote for me because I will listen to their concerns and take direct actions to address those concerns. Voters should vote for me because I understand that my obligation is not to the President of the United States, it’s to the people. Voters should vote for me because I actually care about their well-being. Voters should vote for me because my entire family lives in the district, so the issues that affect the voters affects my family and friends and so, I will do whatever is necessary to protect them and bring the resources home. Voters should vote for me because I will not work against their interest unlike the my opponent, the current Representative who has voted “No” on the Hurricane Michael Tax Relief Act of which the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a $19.1 billion for disaster supplement that brought aid to Floridians and other communities rocked by hurricane catastrophes. It is good to know that your Representative has your back when it matters. It is bad feeling knowing that your Representative will place party or ideology over the better interest of the people. I believe that voters can trust the fact that I understand this concept and I have the heart to do it and the mind to carry my intentions out.
If you win this position, what accomplishment would make your term in office as a success?
Ellison: To get a law passed to curb veteran suicides, to raise the payout amounts for disability benefits, to bring families back together that have been separated at the borders and to get legislation passed that strengthens small business. When I win that will eliminate my opponent from pushing the dismantling of the EPA which would be a success in and of itself.
What are your views on fiscal policy, government spending and the handling of taxpayer dollars in the office you are seeking?
Ellison: I believe that as the population grows, so will the spending. It does not matter whether government is big or small. What really matters is does government work for the people. In this social contract between government and the people, the government has the responsibility to take care of its citizens if it is going to tax them.
Do you support Black Lives Matter and what are your thoughts on the demonstrations held since the death of George Floyd and the shooting of Jacob Blake?
Ellison: I do support BLM I think that the protest have garnered a great deal of global attention and that is what is needed to bring the pressing issues surround his death to the light so that we can affect positive change in this country.
What are your thoughts on the campaign to "defund" the police?
Ellison: I do not support defunding the police. There is and has always been an extremely low regard for the lives of people of color in America. This disdain, hatred, disregard, disrespect and lack of empathy towards people of color is the primary reason why race relations in America have been strained for so long. One can literally see the erosion of the fabric of our society in every aspect of life whether it’s in our relations with one another or thought the policy that we enact. I will hold community forums such as town halls to discuss the issues of race relations and work with law enforcement agencies to create better relationships with communities of color, I will work to fix our broken immigration system as many aspects of the policies that exist are predicated upon race, I will work to improve race relations in American through comprehensive education reform to make sure that everyone is depicted in history books in the proper light and celebrated for their contribution to America and the world. I believe that this will teach people to have a better appreciation for one another. I will advocate for and support the Justice in Policing Act. I will work toward criminal justice reform to reduce the minimum and maximum sentencing guidelines, and make them more proportional to the crimes committed by a 25% cut as a starting point for the 5 major crimes including aggravated assault, drug trafficking, non-violent weapons offenses, robbery and serious burglary) that make up the bulk of the nation’s current prison population. I will encourage more people color to go into law enforcement, social work, law, politics and medicine to help change the narrative and level the playing field and I will encourage leaders to begin to speak with love and unity instead of divisive language that denigrates our society.
What are your thoughts on the state and national response to the coronavirus pandemic? Do you favor such measures as limiting operation of non-essential businesses or restricting indoor/outdoor dining? And do you favor a nationwide mask mandate?
Ellison: I believe that our State's response to COVID-19 has been poor to say the least. I do favor measures to limit the operations of non-essential business and restricting indoor dining. Countries that have done this have been successful. Sates that have done this have been successful in curbing the numbers. I do favor a nationwide mask-mandate.
Is there any reason you would not serve your full term of office, other than those of health or family?
Ellison: I'm sure that there are reasons that are beyond me that would prevent anyone from serving a full term. However, I am healthy and willing to do my term effectively and with a great deal of intentions about making the greatest impact for my constituents and the people of the United States.
The best advice ever shared with me was:
Ellison: Operate in your gift and the manifestations that will take place will blow your mind.
What else would you like voters to know about yourself and your positions?
Ellison: In this race to become Florida’s newest voice in Washington, I would like my constituents to know that I am the strongest candidate on protecting the environment, the only candidate that has a platform to improve the quality of life for all American citizens and the only candidate that cares about increasing benefits for our seniors and our brothers and sisters living with disabilities.
It is an astounding and horrible fact that between 18 to 22 military veterans commit suicide every day. The causes for this tragedy are typically depression fueled by the reaction to PTSD, survivor’s guilt, or low self-esteem due to unpreparedness for civilian life. I am working to end this. I need your help. This election, I am asking for your vote so that I can put a bill on the floor to end veteran suicide.
There are 61 million Americans living in the United States with disability and there are over 252,000 living right here in my congressional district. While leaders are trying to reduce your monthly benefits, others are being denied benefits year after year. I will work to stop this madness and to get you the benefits that you are in need of. If you want a leader who will fight to improve your quality of life, then please vote me this election.
Learn more about Ellison at his campaign website.
Theodore “Pink Tie” Murray, running with no party affiliation, did not submit responses to our questionnaire, but we compiled some information about him. According to The Ledger, he lives in Frostproof and earned an economics degree with a minor in Latin American Studies from Hobart and William Smith Colleges. He’s a roofing and building contractor.
According to The Ledger, he’s “fiscally conservative and socially progressive.” He’s also tired of partisan politics, he said.
If elected, he believes the role of a House member is educating constituents on the issues. He’s also a supporter of good environmental practices and is critical of policies that permit Mosaic, a phosphate company operating in Central Florida, to withdraw 70 million gallons of water from Polk County’s aquifer daily. Murray also told the Ledger he believes in term limits for political candidates.
The Ledger also reported that he was arrested for voyeurism in 2003, a misdemeanor. He also had an arrest for misdemeanor battery that was dismissed in 2001.
Republican Greg Steube did not submit responses to our questionnaire, but we’ve compiled some information about him.
The University of Florida graduate studied beef cattle sciences and minored in agricultural law. After completing law school, he enlisted in the U.S. Army following the Sept. 11 attacks. He served for three years in the U.S. Army JAG Corps, according to his campaign website.
After this, Steube was elected to the Florida State House in 2010 and the State senate in 2016. According to his website, he “used his background in agriculture, law and the military to build a record of accomplishment and strong defense of conservative principles.” In 2018, he was elected to serve District 17 in Congress.
According to his campaign website, his main goals are to “preserve the Second Amendment. Build the Wall. Defend Life. Protect our Vets. It’s that simple.”
He said he’s pro-gun, wants to ban sanctuary cities, believes “there is no place for abortion in civilized society” and wants to take care of veterans.
Learn more about Steube at his campaign website.