Orlando Sentinel: Congress District 6: Where Nancy Soderberg, Michael Waltz stand

In a district now without a congressperson for four months after Ron DeSantis’ resignation, the battle for House District 6 is between two national security experts, Nancy Soderberg and Michael Waltz, who both overcame accusations of carpetbagging to defeat opponents in their primaries.

District 6, which stretches from south of St. Augustine through Volusia County into northern Lake County, leans Republican over Democrat in party registration, about 38 to 33 percent, but another 29 percent of voters were registered as independents or third party for the Nov. 6 vote.

It’s been in GOP hands for years despite continual boundary shifts, including one in 2016. But Democrats, buoyed by polls showing them with double-digit advantages over Republicans in generic ballots, think they can win a number of districts nationwide that were once considered safe GOP seats and have made District 6 one of their key pickup goals.

Who they are

— Nancy Soderberg, 60, is a Democrat who served at the United Nations under President Bill Clinton. She is director of the Public Service Leadership Program at the University of North Florida.

— Michael Waltz, 44, is a Republican and a retired lieutenant colonel of the U.S. Army who was a counterterrorism adviser during the George W. Bush administration. He is CEO of Metis Solutions, a government services provider.

Where they stand

Soderberg said voters have consistently said health care is their biggest issue.

“Their number one concern is their ability to get health care despite having a pre-existing condition,” she said. “People come up to me talk about it, like a 21-year-old girl from Flagler County who’s diabetic and can’t afford insulin and treatment. And that’s personal to me because I’m a diabetic. And why can I get care, and she’s not?”

Soderberg said students should be able to have the same opportunities her generation did to get a good education and jobs without being burdened by student loans.

She also criticized the Republican tax bill, saying it adds $1.9 trillion to the U.S. debt and mostly benefited corporations and special interests.

“And Republicans want to gut Social Security and Medicare,” she said. “Voter after voter comes up to me and ask, ‘Do I have to worry about Medicare?’ And I say, yes.”

Waltz said his priority was “to continue the booming economy,” saying tax relief and deregulation “is creating an economic environment that allows for job growth.”

His main goal is to bring the spaceflight industry into the district, especially Volusia County.

National security would also be a top priority, he said, “working not only with our military forces but ideally a national strategy to undermine Islamic extremism.”

The Trump administration, he said, is “standing up to adversaries and holding allies accountable, and what we’ve seen from the administration is really the way to go.”

Waltz also supports the president’s border wall, saying “border security is national security” and terrorists or weapons could come across the border from Mexico. He said legal immigration should favor people like the 50,000 Iraqi and Afghan translators who worked with the U.S. and are waiting to immigrate to the U.S.

Where they differ

Soderberg said Waltz supports a Republican health care plan that would “gut protections for the 273,000 people with pre-existing conditions in District 6.”

“He claims to support pre-existing conditions, but the bill he supports would do the opposite,” she said.

She also said the GOP tax bill he supported would be used as an excuse “to gut Social Security and Medicare. … They’re all at risk under Michael Waltz’s plans. He can claim he’s concerned about high deductibles, but he can’t hide it behind his support [of GOP plans].”

Waltz said, “Nancy Soderberg may think double-digit premium increases under Obamacare is a good thing, but one of our differences is that as a small business owner I have first-hand experience, year after year, of unfortunately having to pass on premium increases.”

He also said his experience was a factor, saying “national security high-level expertise is somewhat different when you’re on the ground as a Green Beret veteran. And I’ve been walking the walk not only abroad but with veterans dealing with PTSD and the lack of care they’re getting at times from the [Veterans Administration].”

Both Soderberg and Waltz have resided for many years in the Washington area and lived outside the oft-redrawn district when they’re running. Soderberg, who has lived in St. Johns and Duval counties since 2004, moved into the district from Jacksonville Beach to Crescent Beach last year and Waltz lives in St. Augustine, just across the district line.

“Certainly, the voters who just voted didn’t think it was a huge issue, on both sides of the aisle,” Waltz said of questions about their residency. Waltz hasn’t voted in Florida, according to records, but he said, “I wish I’d been here — I’d been running around getting shot at the last few years.”

Soderberg said she moved because thought it was important to live in the area she would represent, “where you’d be able to walk down the street and talk to voters.”

Her campaign has passed the $2 million mark in contributions, a sizable advantage over Waltz’s last reported total of just more than $1 million, including a $400,000 loan to himself.

By Steven Lemongello

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