Republicans dominate Bell Shoals Baptist Church political forum listen07/13/12 Janelle Irwin
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Democrats were quiet at a massive political forum in Brandon last night where dozens of candidates for more state and local races gathered to meet voters. The mostly Republican crowd at Bell Shoals Baptist Church cheered any topic that aligned with Christian values. Jeff Meyer, the churchâ€™s executive pastor, said thatâ€™s what this nation was built on.
â€œItâ€™s a nation that was built upon precepts that we find in scripture. It was built upon Your word. This nation was founded by Christians, not religionists and certainly so that religious freedom could be found out and it could be lived out.â€
And that set the tone for the rest of the evening where each candidate was given two minutes to say their piece. Not one candidate left the podium without the per-requisite â€œGod Blessâ€. Nathalie Tomczak is a member of the churchâ€™s Community Issues Team. She and others created a survey that was sent to all of the 68 invited candidates. It contained questions about abortion, creationism in schools and whether marriage should be legally defined as being between one man and one woman. Tomczak said those questions reflected the groupâ€™s faith-based principles.
â€œThe whole purpose of our group is to inform the congregation and the community about issues that relate to our Christian values and promoting a Christian view point in our community.â€
Abortion was a hot topic among Republican Candidates like Terry Kemple. Heâ€™s running for Hillsborough County School Board after losing a fight with them over whether an Muslim man should have been allowed to speak at a public school, he decided heâ€™d run for a seat at the table. However, Kemple didnâ€™t have anything to say about the issue he championed.
â€œI am absolutely 100% pro-life and I donâ€™t believe that public funding should ever be used for abortion. Question 2a says that and question 2b says public funding in certain circumstances â€“ should a law be passed that allows public funding in certain circumstances? I said no and the same with 2c. I donâ€™t think that public funding should ever be allowed to fund abortion in America.â€
And incumbent Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist who has a challenger in the August Primary spoke about the issue.
â€œWhen I served you in the Florida House of Representatives, I worked hard to ensure that partial birth abortions ended in the state of Florida. I worked hard to ensure that parental consent was put into place for minors.â€
Cristâ€™s opponent in the district two County Commission Republican primary is Tea Party activist Sharon Calvert. She stuck to issues more likely to come up on the County Commission.
â€œI strongly support free market policies and a market-driven approach that create private sector jobs. I donâ€™t believe that we need commissioners to direct our local economy by proposing big government solutions that would risk your tax payers. We didnâ€™t need elected officials to tell Sam Walton or Bill Gates or Steve Jobs what to do or where to go.â€
Democrats were outnumbered nearly ten to one. And those who had the courage to show their faces at the conservative event didnâ€™t say much. Mark Nash, candidate for County Commission district four, didnâ€™t mention anything that might sound too liberal. Instead he just asked for a little consideration.
â€œThis election cycle, I want to encourage you to look at candidates, not political parties.
And William Bronson who is running as a Democrat for a seat in the Florida House of Representatives packed his two minutes with scripture from the New Testament.
â€œFor the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant. Nor to put their hope in wealth which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds and to be generous and willing to share.â€
Afterward Bronson asked for an Amen. Few in the audience obliged. Republican State Senator Ronda Storms got plenty of cheers though. Sheâ€™s jumping out of the state Legislature and trying to unseat embattled Hillsborough County Property Appraiser Rob Turner. Turner admitted to sending inappropriate sexual emails to his secretary and that offended Storms.
â€œAnd I would have been cruising to an easy re-election for my last two years. I was term limited out and it came to my attention that there were shenanigans happening at the Hillsborough County Property Appraiserâ€™s office and I was very concerned as a Republican that Republicans would allow that to stand and that we would stand silent when those sorts of things were happening.â€
Finding a Democrat in the audience may have been like looking for a needle in a haystack, but there was at least one. Laura Colado, outreach director for the [Hillsborough County Young Democrats](http://www.facebook.com/hillsyoungdems] said she came with a friend who attends the church â€“ heâ€™s a Republican. But even though she didnâ€™t agree with a lot of the candidates or their constituents, she said she is glad the church organized the event.
â€œYou can pick whatever side you want, but to not know an issue or not know whoâ€™s running in your district, those are the things that I think these type of forums kind of combat.â€
The event also featured Hillsborough County judicial candidates. All of the candidates in contested judicial races showed up. A different survey was sent to that group. Among the questions were whether or not the candidate had ever been affiliated with the ACLU. Answers to those surveys can be found on their website.