There have been a few interesting moments during the 2013 primary campaign season in St. Petersburg.
And today's Suncoast Tiger Bay candidate forum at the St. Pete Yacht Club, which featured the eight men and women running in Districts 4 and 8, was very mild with one exception.
That exception being Tea Party activist Dr. David McKalip, who we featured in an earlier post
today discussing how he burned with indignity while responding to a controversial comment his campaign manager made on a local television station's website. During the Q-and-A portion of the forum, blogger Peter Schorsch asked McKalip if he regretted sending a racist email in 2009 — when the fight against the Affordable Care Act was at a fever pitch — that depicted President Obama as a witch doctor. McKalip was heated
"Of course I wouldn't send that e-mail. I apologized for sending that e-mail ... it was offensive," McKalip said. [jump]
McKalip then aggressively turned the question around, saying that his fight to stop 'Obamacare' resulted in people trying to suppress free speech. He doubled down on his comments to Beau Zimmer of WTSP-TV, saying he wasn't going to tolerate "political terrorists" who in his opinion are just shills for big government and want to intimidate everyone else into silence.
Schorsch later responded that "As evidenced by the tone of his campaign, Dr. McKalip has obviously not learned much in terms of civility and statesmanship since he forwarded that racist email."
Back to less incendiary issues. The candidates were asked whether or not city employees deserve pay raises. Amy Foster in District 8 said it is important that the city stay competitive with Pinellas County and Tampa in terms of salaries, because that's not the case now. Like most of the other candidates, she said she would look to reduce redundancies and improve efficiencies at City Hall.
District 4 candidate Carolyn Fries said that though she is sympathetic to the fact that city employees haven't received a pay raise in years, it's not much different from what's happening in the private sector, as the country slowly moves away from the most recent recession. Fries said that unlike corporations however, the city can't sell more products or raise prices on their products.
It can raise taxes, of course. But Fries said that's something nobody wants to do.
Several candidates said that the all-encompassing issue of the Lens isn't that important to the voters they've spoken to. Among the eight candidates, only Amy Foster said she supports the Michael Maltzan design. Alex Duensing didn't commit, saying he'll go whichever way the electorate decides. He did raise a few eyebrows and elicit some laughs when he said that he'd like a new pier that looks like something out of a Jules Verne novel.
As far as a new pier goes, many city leaders want St. Pete to reduce its $1.5 million annual subsidy. District 8 candidate Steve Galvin said one way to do that would be to incorporate solar power, so that it would become more self sufficient.
Today's debate was the first time CL has seen and heard District 8 candidate Robert J. Davis. Much of his rhetoric circled back to how he isn't a politician, something that many local candidates running for the first time use as a selling point. Fries employed similar language, saying that she isn't a politician, but "one of you."
District 4 candidate Richard Eldridge is also cut from a different cloth. As he has done so before, when asked about what type of public service he's participated in, he mentioned that in addition to his work with the Marines, he also has given blood — lots of it — over the years.
The field of four candidates in both races will be reduced to the top two finishers from the Aug. 27 primary, unless someone wins a majority of the primary vote, eliminating the need for a run-off.