This past Saturday in Sarasota over 260 people attended a forum to listen to the four announced Democratic Candidates who want to run against and defeat Katherine Harris for the District 13 seat in Congress. District 13 covers Sarasota, Hardee and DeSoto counties, most of Manatee and part of Charlotte. The candidates attending included CJ Czaia (Zia), Christine Jennings, Jan Schneider, and Floyd Jay Winters. WMNF’s Kimberley Farley files this report.

Before any of the candidates spoke, Harold Miller, chair of the Democratic Executive Committee for Sarasota, roused the audience with exciting news. The Republican strength in Sarasota appears to be waning. In 1998, Republicans had 58% of the vote. As of last month, they had only 49.2%. (SB 1, OQ …in this county, in this district)

The four candidates come from a variety of backgrounds. Proud to be a Democrat born in Ohio, Christine Jennings has over thirty years of experience in banking. A mild controversy broke out after a forum held at the New College on March 30. In a handout, it was stated that she is working closely with EMILY’s List, a fundraising group based in Washington DC who primarily supports women Democratic candidates.

One of the other candidates for the Democratic space on the ballot, Jan Schneider, claims that Jennings is overstating her alliance with the group. According to a story that appeared in the April 5th edition of the Sarasota Herald Tribune, Jennings has asked EMILY’s list for help in getting campaign workers amongst other things. A spokesperson for EMILY’s list stated that they have not endorsed Jennings with money or announced approval for her campaign. Schneider does not feel that asking advice of a powerful DC group means that Jennings is working closely with the group, and that people will be misled into thinking that the Jennings and EMILY’s list are officially allied.

Jan Schneider, a lawyer, was Harris’s opponent two years ago and hopes to defeat her this time around. She believes a change needs to be made in the government operates. (SB 2, OQ …for the people)

CJ Czaia, a former Republican and lawyer, is a charismatic candidate who is focusing on the war in Iraq. (SB 3, OQ …and that’s the only way for freedom). He admits that solving the Israel/Palestine conflict will take a long time, but stressed the time to start is now.

Floyd Winters, a computer science teacher, calls himself the man running against two lawyers and a banker. Since his background is in teaching, he is focused on education. In lieu of paying the filing fee to get on the ballot, his team collected over 5300 signatures, about 1000 more than was needed. (SB 4, OQ …represent their future).

After introducing themselves to the audience of over 260 people, a variety of issues were raised in the Question and Answer Section of the Program. They all agreed that abortion rights should not be infringed, but the issue of Gay Marriage showed the diversity of opinion between the candidates.

Jennings stated that she doesn’t want to see the Constitution tampered with and supports civil unions, but did not state whether she went so far as to support Gay Marriage. Czaia and Schneider clearly stated that they support gay marriage and the rights of all people. Floyd is a strong supporter for equal and gay rights but questions the effect the issue could have on the election. (SB, 5, OQ …Ralph Nader effect).

As far as the war in Iraq goes, Jennings stated that once Kerry is elected his actions will diffuse the situation. Winters and Czaia stated that the respect of the world needs to be earned again and Czaia repeated his belief that the Isreali/Palestinian conflict needs to be resolved to end the violence in the Middle East. Schneider gave this assessment of how to end the conflict. (SB 6, OQ …one of the four bases we’re going to have).

For WMNF news, I’m Kimberley Farley.

Iraq: Czaia feels that the US must regain respect of the nation and focus on Israel and Palestine as the basis for the problems in the Middle East instead of dealing with the symptoms that it produces such as Iraq. He admits it’ll take a long time, but the time to start is now.

Schneider, get us out of Iraq. Create UN police force. We’ll be there for a while, but should “retreat� into one of the four bases that will be there.

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