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Al Lawson, Glo Smith Disagree Over Military Spending, Trade At Congressional Debate

Michelle Corum

Fleming Island Republican Glo Smith and former Democratic State Sen. Al Lawson, of Tallahassee, debated before Jacksonville’s Southside Business Men’s Club Wednesday, each making the case why he or she should succeed Corrine Brown in Congressional District 5.

Lawson defeated Brown in the August Democratic primary after her district was redrawn to include Tallahassee. Brown also faces several federal fraud charges related to her alleged involvement in a fake charity. 

On Wednesday, Lawson said his top three priorities are education, the environment and jobs.  Smith put jobs first, followed by military affairs and education.

Smith also supports increased military spending by cutting the IRS or Department of Education, while Lawson said the U.S. already has the best military in the world. Lawson was asked whether he believes the military is as strong as it was eight years ago, and he drew groans from the audience when he replied, “Yes.”

Debate watcher and Jacksonville military vet Targan Wehye-Jones said neither of their answers on military spending swayed her.

“I believe we do need to spend some money into the military, but it really needs to be focused,” she said after the debate. “You can’t just throw money into because we want to have a great military. But the military is strategically trying to do things to align itself.  You can’t, necessarily, send more people somewhere if you have the equipment that can take the place of the people.”

Both candidates said they favor deepening the St. Johns River to bring cargo ships into Jaxport and create jobs.

About international trade, Lawson said he’s in favor of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Smith said she would vote against the TPP as it is now, but would be in favor of it, if it were made fairer to Americans.

According to Lawson's campaign website, he's a longtime agent with Northwestern Mutual Financial Network, as well as owner and publisher of the Capital City Black Pages business directory and shopping guide. Learn more about him here

Smith is a Jacksonville native who has owned a business and is married to a state attorney's office investigator and former state trooper, her website says. Learn more about her here

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.