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The 13th U.S. Congressional District race is heating up ahead of the Jan. 14 Republican primary, with front-running candidates David Jolly and state Rep. Kathleen Peters taking swipes at each other in mailings and TV commercials.
In the first flier we saw attacking Peters, David Jolly’s campaign paints the state representative from South Pasadena as being compliant with the Affordable Care Act. It shows Peters and Democratic challenger Alex Sink in a photo collage with President Barack Obama, with the words, "It’s Pinellas County’s worst nightmare! … Keeping Obamacare!"
The mailing quotes Peters saying, "I do not think we should take a stand and say absolutely repeal it."
In a Republican primary, the attack that a politician is pro-Obamacare -- or even just Obamacare-tolerant -- can be potent. We wanted to know if the flier is accurate in saying that Peters "refuses to ‘take a stand’ to repeal Obamacare."
The magic word
Peters has been a state representative since 2012 for House District 69, which includes Treasure Island, South Pasadena and Gulfport. We couldn’t find any public comments from Peters on the Affordable Care Act before she decided to run for the late C.W. Bill Young’s open U.S. House seat.
At a Suncoast Tiger Bay Club forum in St. Petersburg on Dec. 6, Peters fielded a question from an audience member who asked what her position to improve health care was.
"What I can tell you is that I don’t like the plan that we currently have to take care of affordable health care. And I don’t even think they named it appropriately, and I think it’s one of those wolves in sheep’s clothing when they call it the Affordable Care Act, because it is not at all affordable," Peters answered. "I do not think that we should take a stand and say absolutely repeal it. Not unless we have a plan and a proposal to replace it."
She added she didn’t think pre-existing conditions should be a factor in obtaining insurance, and gave an anecdote about how she had previously had difficulties with insurance companies after a surgery.
"Is it a problem? Yes, we have to address it," she concluded. "But we can’t just repeal it, we have to have a comprehensive plan ... something that’s affordable, that isn’t mandating down and forces people to not have choices."
Jolly, who has been very vocal in his opposition to the law, has said he is using the flier as "a contrast piece," to illustrate how he wants to repeal the law and Peters doesn’t. The quote he chose, however, doesn’t include much context or any indication of Peters’ other talking points about Obamacare.
Peters previously told the Tampa Bay Times she didn’t believe "this affordable care act is truly affordable," but didn’t change her message that some portions of the law -- such as not denying coverage to patients -- were worth keeping. "I don't think we can just go back to the way it was," she said.
This point of view seems to largely fall in line with many Americans. A Gallup poll released on Dec. 6 found that only 30 percent of respondents wanted it gone entirely. The rest wanted to law kept, scaled back or expanded. We should note, though, that when the results are broken down by party affiliation, 68 percent of Republicans favor repeal.
Peters seemed to change the tack of her arguments immediately after the flier was mailed out, posting a message on Facebook dealing with Jolly’s implications. She began clearly stating she supported repeal of Obamacare.
"David Jolly is shamelessly attempting to tie Alex Sink’s support of this law with my position," she wrote. "I want to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but at the same time, we have to have a viable option to replace the law."
She has since solidified her position, saying during a Dec. 19 press conference that she supports the repeal of Obamacare. "I want to be very clear, I support full repeal of Obamacare," she said. "Jolly has misrepresented me on this issue." She also told PolitiFact Florida via email she is seeking to replace the law "with free-market based solutions" and added "there are several Republican alternatives that I am currently reviewing to cosponsor in the future."
Her view seems to square with national Republicans who have advocated a "repeal and replace" strategy since 2010.
Jolly wanted to portray Peters as soft on Obamacare, in an attempt to win over conservative voters. His use of Peters’ quote, "I do not think we should take a stand and say absolutely repeal it" without context is designed to appeal to voters who want the law taken off the books entirely.
Peters has repeatedly said she doesn’t support the law, but doesn’t feel it would be good policy to simply strip the Affordable Care Act off the books without addressing some of the problems in the health care system.
Her stance lacked specifics before the mailing came out, but it was always clear she wasn’t a staunch Obamacare advocate. She repeatedly said or implied the law should go, so long as some provisions could be retained, such as helping people with pre-existing conditions get insurance.
The mailer attempts to make it appear as if she supports the law, which she didn’t do even before clarifying her message.
We rate this statement Mostly False.
Campaign mailer, "It’s Pinellas County’s Worst Nightmare! … Keeping Obamacare!," received Dec. 13, 2013
Tampa Bay Times, "Jolly, Peters have differing views on when to repeal health care law," Dec. 9, 2013
YouTube, "FL13 Candidates speak at Tiger Bay Luncheon," accessed Dec. 16, 2013
Tampa Bay Times, "Know Your Candidates: State House District 69," Oct. 17, 2012
Tampa Bay Times, "Jolly, Peters launch attacks in Pinellas congressional race," Dec. 14, 2013
Tampa Bay Times, "In Pinellas congressional race, Peters accuses Jolly of dishonesty," Dec. 19, 2013
Tampa Bay Times, "A closer look at Congressional District 13 candidates," Dec. 23, 2013
PolitiFact, "Heritage Foundation tweet says repealing Obamacare would be easier than repealing Prohibition," Dec. 9, 2013
Politico, "Nix, not fix: GOP pushed on health law," Dec. 15, 2013
Gallup poll, "Majority of Americans Want Major Changes to Health Law," Dec. 16, 2013
Bill Track 50, Kathleen Peters profile information, accessed Dec. 16, 2013
Project Vote Smart, Kathleen Peters key votes, accessed Dec. 16, 2013
Interview with Mark Zubaly, Kathleen Peters campaign consultant, Dec. 18, 2013
Interview with David Jolly, 13th Congressional District candidate, Dec. 20, 2013
Email interview with Kathleen Peters, 13th Congressional District candidate, Dec. 20, 2013
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