Incumbent U.S. Rep. Al Lawson (D-FL5) and his Republican challenger, Jacksonville businessman Gary Adler, faced off in a virtual forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Jacksonville/First Coast Wednesday night. WJCT Public Media produced the event.
The first topic was the pandemic. Lawson was quick to point the finger at President Donald Trump for not acting quickly enough.
“The president knew about this back in January, but he kind of swept it under the rug,” Lawson said, adding that he was able to get COVID-19 relief money to the First Coast through the CARES Act. “I was able to bring down $140 million into the Jacksonville area.”
Adler said, “First and foremost, we need to get the economy back on track. We need to get everybody back to work.”
He said Congress needs to stop arguing over another stimulus bill and instead, “get money back to the people in the communities.”
Lawson responded saying, “I think what my opponent is talking about is a lack of leadership by the president, because five months ago we passed The Heroes Act, which included more money in there for businesses, for rent assistance, for people having problems - not to let people get put out of their homes - and the Senate has been sitting on it because, [it’s] at the president's discretion for five months.”
President Trump also told Republicans to stop negotiating on another coronavirus relief bill until after the election.
On the subject of how to rev the economy back up, Adler and Lawson agreed they'd like to reform current tax laws.
When it came to the question of raising the federal minimum wage, Lawson said he was for it, while Adler is against the idea.
“The federal minimum wage is intended for an entry-level position, not a job that people aspire to, or work as a career in,” Adler said, adding, in his opinion, it would force businesses to raise prices.
Lawson said he’s paid his employees above the $7.25 federal minimum hourly rate.
“I haven’t paid anybody less than $15 an hour in an insurance business that I’ve been in," he said.
Due to internet connectivity troubles, Adler was unable to be heard a number of times during the forum, leaving moderator Melissa Ross to ask Lawson some additional questions to which Adler was unable to respond.
District 5 covers parts of Jacksonville, stretching to west of Tallahassee.
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