Al Lawson, who hopes to unseat incumbent Congressman Steve Southerland (R-District 2) in next month's election, brought his campaign to Panama City Monday morning.
Lawson spoke to senior citizens at the Bay County Democratic Women's Club, armed with a new poll showing the race in a dead heat. Last week, Lester & Associates, a Washington D.C. based research firm, released results of a survey of 401 likely voters. According to the survey, 43% would vote for Lawson and 43% preferred Southerland.
The Democratic challenger was greeted by a small crowd concerned about big issues: Social Security, Medicare, military veterans' benefits and education.
Lawson went on the attack, criticizing Southerland's record. "Every vote he has taken has been on a partisan basis," said Lawson. "He has not tried to reach across the lines to make things happen."
Lawson, a native of Gadsden County, served in the Florida House of Representatives from 1982 until 2000 and in the Senate from 2000 until he ran unsuccessfully against then Congressman Allen Boyd in 2010.
Lawson told the seniors his time in the legislature taught him how to work both sides of the aisle. "It doesn't make any difference where you come from, whether you're rich or poor, black or white, republican or democrat, he said. "I can make things happen... and that's what I've done throughout my career."
Lawson pledged to protect Social Security and Medicare, fight for increased funding for education and preserve America's middle class. "Probably more so than anything else is to give everybody confidence that it's not going to be about corporate America, it's going to be about the middle class," he said.
Barbara DeVane, state secretary of the Florida Alliance For Retired Americans, said Lawson's legislative record has her convinced that he's the candidate voters should send to Capitol Hill. "He's always brought it home for the people of his district and that's why we call him a representative," said DeVane.
"The American people today ask for someone who will go to Washington and work with their colleagues to make things happen... and that's what it's all about," said Lawson.