Pop a Xanax, Randy. Before your next editorial page interview. Before you appear anywhere again in the same room with your Republican opponent.
Because if you're going to flip out with cameras rolling the way you did during your Treasure Coast Newspapers interview, the only place your CD 18 campaign is going is over a steep cliff.
Lucky for voters, Treasure Coast Newspapers has one of the better methods in the state for candidate interviews. Candidates in each race come into the newspaper together, sit around the table together, face the editors together and get to share each other's agenda.
Last week voters got to see at least snippets of the candidate interviews for CD 18 -- Democrat Randy Perkins and Republican Brian Mast -- because the session was recorded.
Mast, 35, is a combat veteran who lost both legs in Afghanistan. His service and sacrifice earned him the Bronze Star, the Army Commendation Medal for Valor, the Purple Heart, and the Defense Meritorious Service Medal.
Perkins, 52, is the millionaire founder and CEO of Deerfield Beach-based AshBritt Inc., a disaster-recovery business he started in 1992 after Hurricane Andrew.
As the interviews got moving, Perkins apparently felt the need to spin his time at the newspaper out of control.
First, he pointed out that Mast gets his health care for free, through the Veterans Administration. It isn't what he said so much as the way he said it. As if Mast should be grateful to ordinary Americans whose taxes pay for it. Perkins himself took credit for paying for Mast’s free health care.
You'll want to look at the video clips for yourself -- as I say, not just for the dialogue, but for the tone and the building craziness.
Here's the transcript for the first vid:
Perkins: Brian, what do you pay for your health insurance?
Mast: Well, actually I have VA health care, No. 1, but I should also have what’s known as Tricare for Life, but unfortunately, because I am ...
Perkins: I asked you what you paid for it.
Mast: ... 100 percent permanently disabled, and they actually want to provide me Medicare, but it’s something that I refused. I end up having to give away my Tricare benefit and only have VA.
Perkins: So is it zero? You pay zero?
Mast: No, I do still have to actually pay something for my ...
Perkins: And as an American taxpayer, I am very proud for my taxpayer ... taxpayer dollars to pay ... to, uh, assist with insurance for you and for every other veteran that’s ever served this country, so let me be clear on that.
Mast: Thank you.
Perkins: However, before we start making decisions that impact families across this country, we also have to see how they would impact me if I was in that same position. So as far as the Affordable Care Act ...
Huh? Be sure to watch.
And by the time we get to the second clip, Perkins has lost all his filters, and it seems, his grasp of good sense. Here's a transcript of the longer exchange between the candidates. Again, be sure to see it for yourself in the video provided here:
Randy: So Brian.
Brian: Yes, Randy.
Randy: I am the first one, as you know, to honor the service and sacrifices that you have made and done for this country, so tell me why the sacrifices and the services you provided for this country make you capable for solving the issues of Social Security for seniors, the mental health among our children, our teenagers, the opioid addiction in this country, um, single mothers throughout this district fighting for an opportunity for their children, our veterans coming back with no job opportunities or services and veterans programs of government contracting which the intention is good it’s not working, our families with livable wages or labor, increasing wages, keeping jobs in this country, fighting and trying to solve the environment issues of the rivers and ... our quality of life, our small businesses are being devastated. How does the fact that you continually talk about the incredible service you’ve provided for this country make you capable of solving any of the problems I just talked about?
Brian: Well, it’s what’s involved in that service that makes me very capable of solving a number of those issues, or at least brings me to the right point.
Randy: Pick two ... answer one question and actually answer it.
Brian: Certainly. The Department of Veterans Affairs and what’s going on with rules of engagement on the battlefield. How about those two? I have a very unique philosophy.
Randy: Tell me how a senior in this district on Food Stamps ...
Brian: What’s wrong? I didn’t pick the one you wanted?
Randy: How did rules of engagement on the battlefield ...
Brian: I didn’t mean to not pick the two ...
Randy: No, that wasn’t one of my questions ... What question did I ask you that you need to answer with rules of engagement? Nobody questions your intelligence on military issues, OK, so what ...
Brian: You asked me to point to two that my military service ...
Randy: What question did I ask you that requires response of rules of engagement?
Brian: You asked me to pick two things ...
Randy: OK, what? What? What question requires that response?
Brian: VA, you didn’t hear me say VA ... do you want to give me a chance or are you just happy with hearing me say VA?
Randy: How is what I said about veterans and job opportunities ... have to do with rules of engagement?
Brian: OK, so I’ll give you it, I don’t want Randy to get ... he’s very thin-skinned, I don’t want to get him upset.
Randy: No, OK, here is what we need ... Governor Christie here right now to say 'there he goes again' ... that’s what we need.
Brian: He’s very thin-skinned ...
Randy: I’m not thin-skinned.
Talking to me Wednesday, reflecting on the editorial board meeting in Stuart, Mast characterized the experience as bizarre and sad.
"I found it pretty disgusting that people want to be thanked for their tax dollars going to veterans who need services, or that I'm not man enough to stand up to the problems the nation is having at home and abroad. I would dare (Perkins) to tell Gold Star families that veterans are incapable of serving in elected office."
Mast said, "Essentially, he tried to paint me as an extremist. But I can tell you, I learned from the military how to work with people from every background. I can do that. I can understand and listen. If that can't transcend the divide in Washington, I don't know what can."
Chris Pack, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, kept his reaction short and definitive. “Randy Perkins is unfit to represent the people of Florida’s 18th District in the House of Representatives,” he said.
The posturing, the arrogance, the ramped-up volume ... voters can get a pretty good snapshot of CD 18 candidate Perkins right here.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith