District 19 candidates debate ahead of November election

Reporter: Breana Ross Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
District 19 nominees: Democrat Cindy Banyai and Republican Byron Donalds. Credit: WGCU via WINK News.

The November election is 36 days away, and the U.S. House Florida District 19 congressional debate was hosted by WGCU at its station on Florida Gulf Coast University’s campus Monday.

Republican Byron Donalds and Democrat Cindy Banyai took the stage to respond to hot-button issues.

The two candidates faced off on everything from water quality, climate change and the environment, as well as economic issues such as raising the minimum wage and simplifying the tax code.

One of the most heated points between Banyai and Donalds came right at the beginning of the debate, when the two talked about the nation and the president’s response to the pandemic.

“We should have had a stronger response,” Banyai said. “I don’t know how we got to the point where over 200,000 Americans dead is acceptable. It’s not.”

“I always want to know what was their strategy?” Donalds said. “What was their plan because all I see that it is, is trying to ridicule the president for trying to do his job.”

When it came to Amendment 2, which would incrementally raise Florida’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, the two had very different ideas of what that would do to the state’s economy.

“A lot of teenagers are not gonna be able to get jobs when they’re in high school,” Donalds said. “Unfortunately, a lot of young Black kids like myself, when I grew up, are not going to be able to get jobs when they’re in high school, trying to get the necessary skillset they need to move on to the next job. Hours are going to be cut.”

“What do we have to lose by trying something different?” Banyai said. “Or are we just going to listen to the business interests tell us that it’s not time, while we are standing in food lines with 15 million people across the United States unemployed?”

The two did agree on some issues, including simplifying the tax code and extending COVID-19 financial relief for small business owners and for the unemployed.

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