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District 4 Congressional Debate: Deegan, Rutherford Weigh In On Handling Of Pandemic

Congressman John Rutherford  (R-FL4) and Democratic challenger Donna Deegan
Congressman John Rutherford (R-FL4) and Democratic challenger Donna Deegan

Northeast Florida Republican Congressman John Rutherford  (R-FL4) and Democratic challenger Donna Deegan squared off in their only debate last night. 

The debate was hosted by WJCT News partner News4Jax, in partnership with Jacksonville University’s Public Policy Institute.

Deegan and Rutherford weighed in on President Donald Trump’s response to the pandemic.  Here’s Deegan:

“Well I think I would do just about everything differently.  First of all, I would not have fired the pandemic team before we ever had a pandemic in the first place. When the president first found out about how serious this was back in January, he should have been straight with the American people, and told them just how difficult this was going to be, that it was going to be deadly, that it was going to be hard.” 

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Rutherford, however, said the president acted quickly, pointing to the China travel restrictions.

“The actual impact of this pandemic was not known at this time.  We didn’t know how badly this was going to go, and so we locked down the greatest economy this country has ever seen.”

Turning to the pandemic-induced recession, Rutherford said he’s working with House leadership to pass an additional relief bill — but Trump has told Republicans to stop negotiating on the bill until after the election.

The race for the 4th Congressional District, which covers Nassau and parts of Duval and St. Johns counties, pits Rutherford, a former Jacksonville sheriff, against Deegan, a former First Coast News anchor and breast cancer survivor who started the Donna Marathon and  The Donna Foundation.

Deegan also called in Thursday morning to WJCT’s First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross. That episode will be available Thursday afternoon.

The full debate can be viewed at News4Jax.

Michelle Corum can be reached at, 904-358-6308 or on Twitter at @MCorumonME.

Michelle Corum joined WJCT as "Morning Edition" host in 2012 and has worked in public broadcasting as an announcer and reporter for public radio stations in Lawrence, Kansas, and Interlochen, Michigan. She also manages WJCT's Radio Reading Service for sight-impaired listeners.