EQUALITY FLORIDA CANDIDATES' FORUM- 28 SEPTEMBER 2006, Stan Davis
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Thursday night, the Metropolitan Community Church of Tampa hosted a Ã¢â¬ÅWhoÃ¢â¬â¢s WhoÃ¢â¬? of Tampa Bay politicos. The Ã¢â¬ÅMeet Your Candidates ForumÃ¢â¬? was co-sponsored with Equality Florida and the Human Rights Campaign. And the Ã¢â¬ÅWhoÃ¢â¬â¢s WhoÃ¢â¬? was who showed-up and who didnÃ¢â¬â¢t when it came to addressing a predominantly gay and lesbian audience.
Stan Davis was there and files this story.
[Actuality 1- Mary Ruth Kennedy- Ã¢â¬ÅÃ¢â¬Â¦ IÃ¢â¬â¢m a member of Tampa Metropolitan Community ChurchÃ¢â¬Â¦ but IÃ¢â¬â¢m not sure whether it will happen or notÃ¢â¬Â¦Ã¢â¬?]
Like many of the other 200 attendees at Thursday eveningÃ¢â¬â¢s Ã¢â¬ÅYou Decide Tampa BayÃ¢â¬? forum, Mary Ruth Kennedy wanted to hear how the candidates stood on gay and lesbian issues.
And, perhaps just as critical, she wanted to see which of the candidates would actually have the interest to show up.
The evening began with some big news, though. And not from any of the candidates either.
Pinellas County Sheriff, Jim Coates, was there last night to tell the crowd that in the very near future his office would be extending full healthcare coverage to all of its employees and their families, including same-sex domestic partners.
Coates gave WMNF a brief rundownÃ¢â¬Â¦
[Actuality 2- Sheriff Coates- Ã¢â¬ÅÃ¢â¬Â¦ This is a benefit still in the planning stagesÃ¢â¬Â¦ same-sex domestic partnersÃ¢â¬Â¦Ã¢â¬?]
And, although itÃ¢â¬â¢s still in the planning stages, Coates was optimistic about the timelineÃ¢â¬Â¦
[Actuality 3- Sheriff Coates- Ã¢â¬ÅÃ¢â¬Â¦ weÃ¢â¬â¢re hoping to have this online no later than January first of Ã¢â¬â¢07.Ã¢â¬?]
It was big news, and the audience was primed to hear even more from the candidates whoÃ¢â¬â¢d come to ask for their support.
But many had chosen not to attend.
Jim Davis was in Washington, while Kevin White and Rose Ferlita were both at Tampa City Hall, voting on next yearÃ¢â¬â¢s budget.
That still left a whole lot of candidates who could have been there, but werenÃ¢â¬â¢t.
In fact, the only hopeful running for a statewide or Washington job to show up was Samm Simpson, the firebrand grandma running for Congress in Pinellas County District 10 against 36-year incumbent, Bill Young.
Nonetheless, about 25 candidates did attend the forum.
Running for positions that ranged from Circuit Judge and School Board seats to County Commission and State Senate, they spoke to the issues of primary concern to the gay and lesbian community: the rights of domestic partners, bullying and discrimination in the schools, the Hillsborough County ban on gay pride events, support for a human rights ordinance, civil unions, Fostering and adoption.
Nadine SmithÃ¢â¬âExecutive Director of Equality Florida, and one of the moderators Ã¢â¬âasked a group of County Commission hopefuls how THEY felt about domestic partner benefitsÃ¢â¬Â¦
[Actuality 4- Smith/Everyone - Ã¢â¬ÅÃ¢â¬Â¦ would you supportÃ¢â¬Â¦ isnÃ¢â¬â¢t that the American way?Ã¢â¬?]
But, after the Pinellas SheriffÃ¢â¬â¢s office news, most of what the candidates had to say paled by comparison.
It was left to Samm Simpson to wind the evening up on a high note. She opened her presentation with a quote Ã¢â¬Â¦
[Actuality 5- Samm- Ã¢â¬ÅÃ¢â¬Â¦ Louis Latham wrote this Ã¢â¬Â¦ and bloodÃ¢â¬Â¦Ã¢â¬?]
And she got the crowd to their feet with her big finaleÃ¢â¬Â¦
[Actuality 6- Samm- Ã¢â¬ÅÃ¢â¬Â¦ we have to take our nation backÃ¢â¬Â¦ and we have to take the constitution back Ã¢â¬Â¦Ã¢â¬?]
For WMNF, IÃ¢â¬â¢m Stan Davis