There's a very interesting Congressional race down in Florida's Pinellas County 10th district between the Republican incumbent, 18-term Rep. C.W. Bill Young, and the no-name Democrat challenger Samm Simpson, a 53-year-old grandmother, former radio broadcaster and financial marketer whose waging a good old fashioned grass roots campaign. Young was formerly Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, and has also served on the House Armed Services Committee, and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He currently serves as Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, and is the senior Republican in the House. Taking him down would be a monumental coup for Simpson. A climb up Mt. Everest? For sure, but that's what America is all about.
We spoke with Simpson about her candidacy and her thoughts on the campaign and a few of the major issues of the day:
Ostroy Report: Why run for Congress and take on an 18-term incumbent in a solid Bush country?
Simpson: Anybody who is concerned about their individual freedoms needs to sound an alarm. I've been watching our Constitution crumble since 2000, and in January of 2006, after watching more of the President's rhetoric about terrorism and the war in Iraq, I felt compelled to run. At first I thought I'd be a write in candidate. I told the Democratic Party I'd like to do this and discovered they had no one else. Then I found out that it cost $9726 to have my name on the ballot. This is set by the Florida legislature and part of the problem, don't you think? The other alternative was to get signed petitions. So we got 'em. First time in the history of Pinellas County that a Federal Candidate qualified by petitions. But it's not just the war, the corruption, the greed the sellout out of our public policy to corporations and the eroding of the social contract and middle class purchasing power that propels me to run for elected office. It's also about the Constitution and the sacred fabric of the law that my father fought for, and our forefathers died for. Congress is standing by blindly allowing this President and administration to flagrantly disrespect our own Constitution.
Ostroy Report: As a person of faith, how will you let your religious beliefs influence possible decisions on abortion, school prayer, Terri Schiavo-like life/death issues, public displays of religious items symbols?
Simpson: Abortion is a tragedy of monumental proportions and it is an act that I personally strongly oppose... I feel that much more needs to be done to help prevent abortion and restore a respect for life. This runs the gamet from educational programs to condom giveaways. I'm not sure our nation is ready to outlaw abortion; the majority of American's believe that this difficult choice must be a private matter within the bounds of one's conscience, one's doctor and one's God. I agree. School prayer? Hmm...A moment of silence to recognize something bigger than the math test. I'm not opposed to it. Terri Schiavo? Congress was acting improperly when it became engaged in this very personal and private family matter.
Ostroy Report: What's your position on Iraq? Do you support an immediate withdrawal of troops? Would you have voted for the recent Kerry/Feingold resolution or the Levin/Reed measure?
Simpson: I would have voted for Kerry/Feingold, but not for Levin Reed, as the latter had no timetable.
Ostroy Report:What's the #1 problem with the Bush administration and the GOP today, and what would you as a congresswoman do to change it?
Simpson: I would say that the number one problem is a failure of leadership. This involves a refusal to take responsibility or make the Administration accountable for it's actions, and the culture of greed and secrecy and hubris that has overcome their responsibility to the American People and the Constitution. I could counter this by seeking and telling the truth, not supporting policies that are based on lies, and, if it has momentum from others, impeaching the President and the Vice President.
Ostroy Report:Do you believe Bush's Medicare drug plan is a failure? If so, why?
Simpson: Yes. The Medicare Drug program is a prime example of the Bush Administration and Republican leadership blatantly beholden to the special interests of healthcare lobbyists and placing their corporations ahead of what's best for American seniors. The path to this legislation was fraught with illegality and subterfuge. According to the Alliance of Retired Americans, "The Bush Administration violated the law by withholding cost estimates and threatened a Federal employee with firing if he disclosed them. The Bush Administration used tax dollars for a multi million-dollar propaganda campaign to promote it to the public. House leaders held the vote in the middle of the night and kept it open for an unprecedented three-hour period. One of the bills principal authors, former Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-LA), negotiated a $2 million deal to head PhRMA, the drug industry's trade group, while working on the law." The 1% penalty adds insult to injury and the lack of negotiating power is unconscionable. Seniors are now beginning to face the "donut hole" where they will be 100% responsible for paying for drug coverage.
And, with Medicare now paying billions to private insurance companies, this plan will cost American Taxpayers $720 Billion during the first 10 years with costs reaching $100 billion a year by the middle of the next decade. So what is the answer? Retro fit this bill to allow drug negotiation, roll back the 1% penalty and cover the donut hole? That still leaves the seniors and Medicare beholden to monthly fees, rising drug prices, changed formularies, "asset tests" that will disqualify nearly 3 million very low income seniors, lack of access to home oxygen treatments and the promise, by 2010, competition between Medicare and private insurance plans, to name a few. I say we dismantle the bill and build a drug component into a national health care system that is affordable for everyone, like H.R. 676, a bill co-sponsored by Congressmen John Conyers and Dennis Kucinich. Why not use the best minds in social and public policy, education, disease prevention, medicine and health care distribution - not the moneyed lobbyists - to come up with a plan to solve our health care dilemma? With visionary leadership, and a paradigm where people are the priority, we can work together to solve one of America's most difficult problems.
Ostroy Report:What's your position on the immigration issue?
Simpson:This is a huge issue and I am still researching. Nevertheless, here are some thoughts. The laws are not being followed or enforced. Our borders are not secure. We need a longer-term strategy based on the will and desire of the American people, economics, labor supply and demand, education and health care systems and our culture's ability to assimilate change. Amnesty is not the answer. Nor is blanket deportation. We must understand that our trade policies have affected this migration, as well as our Congressional politics, indifference or employer greed. I believe that our best short-term solution is enforcement of existing laws of employers. Currently, the House version of the not yet passed immigration bill says "no pathway to citizenship," and the Senate version says 2 years. I disagree with both. For legal aliens to become citizens, they must be here five years. If we are going to have a pathway to citizenship for those who entered the country illegally, it stands to reason that the length of time should be longer than five years. And the criteria should include fines or penalties for breaking the law. Borders need to be secured and we should have POE's (Points of Entry) with the appropriate technology to document who is in the country. We need to take a look at all the 245i and HI-B programs and consider lowering the number allowed. Congress must commit the funds for the staffing and resources of the Bureau of Immigration Control Enforcement to allow for interior enforcement of the existing law. A rollout of training for local law enforcement officials should be included in this process. First and foremost, we should identify illegal aliens in our prisons and local jail facilities. Congress should pass a law that requires mandatory roll out of The Basic Pilot Document Verification Program - a joint program between SSA and DHS, whereby employers verify the employment eligibility of newly hired employees. This is currently voluntary and helps employers determine whether an individual is eligible to work in the US.
Ostroy Report: what's your biggest challenge in this campaign?
Simpson: I have serious challenges with an ill family member. I've got challenges because I'm utilizing my IRA to live on while I do this. I have challenges with knowing how to do this, as it's all brand new. I have challenges in my own mind that wonders, "What am I doing?...Can I really make a difference?" I have challenges with money and fund raising, because I've only raised around $6000 or $7000 and the DCCC will only talk to me if I have $100,000 and the State of Florida's Democratic Party will only talk to me if I've got this much or that much. I'm getting a first hand lesson in politics and I don't want to be a politician. The only thing I don't have a challenge with is the direction I'm headed in. Because I know I'm supposed to do this. I'm determined to seek and tell the truth. It's out there, we just need to open our eyes, turn off the televisions and read a few books. Our campaign is the first in Pinellas County history to have a Federal Candidate qualify by getting the proper number of signed petitions. Seventy-five hard working volunteers gathered just over 4500 within five weeks. We needed 4088 to quality. Once they all got counted, we had 4089. Every Vote Counts. My campaign continues to be grass roots, speaking to groups, reaching out to people door to door, through the internet, via my television show Media Is Propaganda http://homepage.mac.com/sammscript/iMovieTheater28.htmland through audio broadcasts and word of mouth. The primary objective of this campaign is to let Florida's 10th District voters know that they have a clear alternative choice to the current 36-year Republican incumbent this November. I am that alternative. It's considered a David and Goliath contest. Let's not forget who won.
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