As U.S. Senate candidate for Florida Peter Deutsch walked into the fourth floor of the Phyllis P. Marshall Center Campus View East room, he shook hands and greeted the 35 students and faculty that attended his question-and-answer forum on Monday.
This was Deutsch’s second college visit, and he talked about his campaign, terrorism and the economy.
Deutsch, 46, is one of three Democratic candidates vying for Sen. Bob Graham’s seat. Graham decided not to seek a fourth term. Deutsch, former USF President Betty Castor and mayor of Miami-Dade County Alex Penelas are the three Democratic candidates running for the position.
Deutsch, who is running for the first time, said he feels that he has a good chance of beating Castor, who has already won two statewide races, one as Florida’s education commissioner and another as a state senator.
“When people know her and me, I feel confident that I will win the primary,” Deutsch said. “In comparison with Betty (in fund raising) I am doing much better than her.”
Deutsch said that he knows Castor personally and that it has been a long time since she has had her name on a ballot, and it may be difficult for her to win again.
“There has been such a huge growth in Florida, and not being on the ballot for, like, 14 years is like 1,400 years in Florida,” he said.
Deutsch also said he thinks the Patriot Act needs to change.
“Post 9/11, we live in a different world, and, one thing I agree (on) with President George W. Bush is the challenge of (fighting) terrorists and terrorist states,” he said. “We live in a world that a Unabomber can create a nuclear device, but at the same time it is taking away civil liberties and that is wrong.”
Avoiding profiling and allowing access to records that aren’t directly related to security are topics that Deutsch said need to be addressed in the Patriot Act.
“There needs to be a balance,” he said.
In regards to education and the economy, Deutsch said the future of the economy and the country is dependent on how students vote and what they want out of an education.
“One of the greatest advantages of America is our educational system, and now, in 2004, we have people who are trying to destroy that system,” Deutsch said. “Money is not the solution but a component. We are empowered to shape the future.”
Deutsch added that Pell Grants amounts haven’t increased, which doesn’t help students, and student loans need to be looked at more closely. He said he wants people, including students, to see the effects of helping and supporting education.
He said the primary difference that sets him apart from Castor and Penelas is that he is ready to serve in Congress.
“I am ready to fight for the people in Florida, and I view the job as not just winning the seat, but (to) win and serve for the next 20 to 30 years and to (be) actively engaged,” he said. “I’m not sure (the other candidates) view the job in the same way, and that is what the voters will decide.”
At the age of 25, Deutsch became a freshman member of the Florida House of Representatives. In 1992, he ran for the U.S. House of Representatives. He graduated from Yale Law School in 1982 and lives in Fort Lauderdale.