ST. PETERSBURG – The race for U.S. House District 13 is one of the most-watched congressional races in the country. Monday night, the fireworks were on display as republican incumbent U.S. Rep. David Jolly squared off with his democratic opponent, former Florida Governor Charlie Crist.
Out of the gate, Jolly had the gloves off as he tried to convince voters that he deserves a second term.
“Mr. Crist, this is why we can’t believe what you say,” Jolly said to his opponent. “It was only after you switched parties that you switched your position. This is not a matter of conviction for you. This is political convenience.”
Crist tried to remain civil through the debate, but got his jabs in, too. He used a question about tourism to turn the tables on his opponent and point out the sewage crisis in St. Petersburg.
“What I don't understand is why our member of Congress, our representative of Pinellas County, which is the epicenter of this problem, isn’t advocating day after day after day for federal emergency help to get this cleaned up. Our country has done it for Flint. Why can’t we do it for Pinellas County?” Crist asked.
“It is because the Mayor, who has endorsed you, who oversaw this catastrophe has not asked for it,” Jolly responded.
“Do you need an invitation to serve?” Crist prodded.
The two went back and forth on everything from sewage to social security. They answered questions about abortion, whether to ban assault rifles and whether to raise the minimum wage.
Voters inside of St. Pete’s historic Palladium Theatre watched and listened for an hour. Some say they still are not convinced about who will get their vote come November.
“I want to vote for who is, I feel, the best [and] that's qualified whether it be Republican or Democrat. I’m on the fence.” said Ken Harrison.
Registered democrat Cody Tompkins said he also needs time.
“I believe they both made valid points. I have to reflect on what I heard tonight,” he said.
Co-moderator and political editor for the Tampa Bay Times, Adam Smith, said it was a fiery debate that served voters well.
"I would be reluctant to declare a winner and I think it's going to be all in the eye of the beholder," Smith said.
You can watch the debate in it's entirety [mobile users, CLICK HERE]: The video begins at 2:30