EQUALITY FLORIDA CANDIDATES' FORUM- 28 SEPTEMBER 2006, Stan Davis09/29/06
Thursday night, the Metropolitan Community Church of Tampa hosted a â€œWhoâ€™s Whoâ€? of Tampa Bay politicos. The â€œMeet Your Candidates Forumâ€? was co-sponsored with Equality Florida and the Human Rights Campaign. And the â€œWhoâ€™s Whoâ€? was who showed-up and who didnâ€™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- â€œâ€¦ Iâ€™m a member of Tampa Metropolitan Community Churchâ€¦ but Iâ€™m not sure whether it will happen or notâ€¦â€?]
Like many of the other 200 attendees at Thursday eveningâ€™s â€œYou Decide Tampa Bayâ€? 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 rundownâ€¦
[Actuality 2- Sheriff Coates- â€œâ€¦ This is a benefit still in the planning stagesâ€¦ same-sex domestic partnersâ€¦â€?]
And, although itâ€™s still in the planning stages, Coates was optimistic about the timelineâ€¦
[Actuality 3- Sheriff Coates- â€œâ€¦ weâ€™re hoping to have this online no later than January first of â€™07.â€?]
It was big news, and the audience was primed to hear even more from the candidates whoâ€™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 yearâ€™s budget.
That still left a whole lot of candidates who could have been there, but werenâ€™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 Smithâ€”Executive Director of Equality Florida, and one of the moderators â€“asked a group of County Commission hopefuls how THEY felt about domestic partner benefitsâ€¦
[Actuality 4- Smith/Everyone - â€œâ€¦ would you supportâ€¦ isnâ€™t that the American way?â€?]
But, after the Pinellas Sheriffâ€™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 â€¦
[Actuality 5- Samm- â€œâ€¦ Louis Latham wrote this â€¦ and bloodâ€¦â€?]
And she got the crowd to their feet with her big finaleâ€¦
[Actuality 6- Samm- â€œâ€¦ we have to take our nation backâ€¦ and we have to take the constitution back â€¦â€?]
For WMNF, Iâ€™m Stan Davis