by Javier ManjarresThe Republican Jewish Coalition of Florida hosted the first candidate forum between the Republican congressional candidates vying for the opportunity to face Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz in November. All of the candidates- Karen Harrington, Gineen Bresso, Joe Kaufman and Ozzie deFaria confirmed their attendance prior to the event, but Bresso abruptly withdrew, claiming a conflict with a previously scheduled finance event.
The forum gave the candidates five minutes to introduce themselves and was followed by Q & A from the audience. Ira Sabin, Treasurer of the Palm Beach Republican Executive Committee moderated the forum.
Here is a brief overview and highlights of the event, including the responses to some of the questions asked by the attendees.
Joe Kaufman started off his introduction by stating that “We cannot continue purchasing fuel from our enemies”, presumably referring to Saudia Arabia and Venezuela, but failed to mention that the majority of U.S. oil imports come from Canada and Mexico. Kaufman then made the case for his anti-terror credentials, referencing the Florida chapter of the Republican Jewish Coalition, which he claims to have founded.But almost on cue, Kaufman uttered his now infamous quasi-bigoted statement- “It takes a Kaufman to beat a Wasserman.”
Ozzie deFaria immediately followed Kaufman, and objected to this statement calling it a”Divisive statement that generates bigotry and hatred.” deFaria then rattled off his extensive business acumen, listing among other things, $800 million raised to the economy while he was atop of companies and the creation of 2700 private sector jobs.
“I have truly lived the American dream.”- Ozzie deFaria
Harrington rounded out the opening statements by mentioning her attendance at the annual RJC meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada last weekend, and reiterated her “Strong base of grassroots support,” and name-dropped some of her high profile endorsements like Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and RJC Founder Stanley Tate.
Harrington subtly contrasted her small business experience to deFaria’s more ‘big’ business approach and experience.
“Obama is a national security issue for the United States.” –Karen Harrington
Q & A
On job experience:
Kaufman never said what his current job was. Instead, Kaufman said that he ran a 501(c)(3) charity and had held “various” jobs over the years. Kaufman also said that he helped “expose bigotry and terrorism” while running his non-profit, Americans Against Hate. Perhaps Kaufman expected the audience to assume that he drew a paycheck from the donations sent to his charity?
A passionate Kaufman also stated,” I need to be in Congress,” before doubling down on his prior claim by again saying that “most people understand that it takes a Kaufman to beat a Wasserman.” Most people?deFaria rehashed his business experience and the fact that he was currently taking a break from the private sector to focus on his congressional campaign. Harrington also restated her position as owner/manager of her restaurant in Pembroke Pines, Florida.
While all three candidates all agreed in no more than three two year terms in the House of Representatives, Kaufman tried to claim that Harrington was in favor of extending term limits. Harrington quickly smacked Kaufman’s allegation by quickly reminding him that she signed the Term Limits pledge last year.
In a one-on-one with Wasserman Schultz, candidates were asked to contrast themselves with her:
Kaufman said that, “I would tell the truth to the American public.” Kaufman emphasized the need to create Americans products and build up the energy sector.deFaria said that Washington DC needed “business discipline” and took a swipe at Harrington by claiming that unlike her, he would not wait for a second congressional campaign to run a smarter and more effective campaign-he would surround himself with right people from the get-go.
deFaria you will recall photo-shopped a dog collar around Wasserman Schultz’s neck, and publicly stated on several occasions that “We need to her (DWS) back to the pound”- not so smart of a move.(Dog Collar folie)
I have nothing in common with Debbie Wasserman Schultz”- Ozzie deFaria
Harrington said that both Wasserman Schultz had two things in common, in that they were both cancer survivors and were both mothers of three children.
On a constituent opposed bill up for a vote:
She will never understand how to make payroll because she does not have any business experience.” –Karen Harrington
defaria said that if elected to the Congress, he would do what he felt was right. deFaria said that as a Congressman, the people who voted for him did so because they trusted he would make the right decision. deFaria closed by saying that he would do “what is right, not what is popular.”
Harrington stated that she would first make sure that the bill in question was constitutional and that it would not compromise her morals, principles, or values before supporting it.
Kaufman said that he would vote “his conscience.”
The moment of the night was when the candidates were asked to give a solution to the current Housing crisis.
Harrington said that,while some regulations are necessary, deregulation, or elimination of bad regulations are what is needed. Kaufman gave a long and convoluted answer, similar to a 2004 John Kerry presidential debate tip-toe answer that ended in the invoking of the use of energy resources.
Right after Kaufman’s trip into outer space, deFaria immediatly jumped up and gave the soundbite of the night:
Joes’s answer made me forget the question”- Ozzie deFaria
deFaria agreed with Harrington that the Dodd-Frank banking bill needed to be scrapped and that less regulation was needed to improve the economy. deFaria also warned that there wasn’t a ‘silver bullet’ that would fix all the economic woes of the country. deFaria believes that there will have to be a lot of give and take as we attempt to revive the economy and that some folks would have to “bite the bullet and move on…there will be suffering, and we would need to fight through it.”
What Federal agency would you cut?
deFaria quickly and firmly stated the Department of Education, saying that education should be a local issue, not a federal one. Harrington listed the Labor, Commerce, EPA, as well as agreeing with deFaria about the Department of Education. Harrington then emphasized the successful charter school system as an alternative and again sided with deFaria in bringing education back down to the state and local level.
Kaufman wasn’t exact on which department he would cut until deFaria called him out for not giving a specific answer. Only then did Kaufman say that he would cut from all government agencies that overlapped one another.
Defaria again reminded everyone about his business acumen, adding that he was the only one that could beat Wasserman Schultz because he of his background.
“What you see is what you get”-Ozzie deFaria
Harrington closed by saying that her campaign has received support from citizens in 44 states and is the only one of the field of candidate that has qualified to run for office by petition.
Kaufman couldn’t resist but to take a swipe at Harrington by chiding her for only getting 38% of the vote in 2010 when she first ran against Wasserman Schultz. Harrington quickly smacked his argument out the door by stating in 2010, only 41% of Republicans came out to vote.
In sum, both Karen Harrington and Ozzie deFaria did very well, making strong cases for their candidacies, while Kaufman proved all of his detractors correct in their assessment he was a ‘one-trick pony’ issue candidate. It’s disappointing to see that Kaufman has made little effort to learn and articulate the numerous federal issues that every serious congressional candidate should be well versed in. Throw in Kaufman’s not-so-subtle bigoted comments and you have a candidate who is not ready for prime time, let alone represent South Floridians in the U.S. Congress.