Bill Foster and Kathleen Ford held yet another debate last night. The event at the Pinellas Community Church in South St. Pete was a little different than some of their most recent encounters; Like John McCain and Barack Obama's affair with the Reverend Rick Warren at his Saddleback Church in August of 2008, the candidates spent approximately 40 minutes alone on stage with Lead Pastor Mark Canfield, with the other candidate presumably sealed off in a sound proof room.
Fitted with Madonna/Janet Jackson style headsets, the candidates sat one on one with Canfield in a convivial way, in which the Pastor asked the exact same questions to Ford and Foster.
If you've attended or observed any of the recent debates, I can report that very little said was anything original. The most interesting question Canfield asked of the candidates was about the St Pete Pride Festival held every June in St. Petersburg. Ford has attended those celebrations of the gay community, Foster has not.
When asked what she would say to those with more 'traditional values' who may object to the event, Ford responded that "love is a family value," and that "no one should be discriminated against."
Foster responded by saying he wants to be 'everybody's mayor', and emphasized that he does not believe in discrimination against anyone.
Saying that people have tried to put words in his mouth on the matter, Foster said he would 'not object to domestic partnership benefits' for same sex couples. He repeated his objections to the Pride Festival, saying that it's "tailored to a very mature audience", but he reiterated his recognition of the tremendous contributions of the LGBT community".
I have no idea if Foster has recalibrated his thoughts on the issue, but the St. Petersburg Times reported last month that at a forum hosted by State Representative Rick Kriseman:
Earlier, Kriseman pressed Foster to pledge to support domestic partner benefits for all city employees. Foster would not take the pledge, saying that in lean budget years the city should be looking to cut, not expand, programs. Ford said she supports adding domestic partner benefits for city employees.
News Channel 8 was at the event, and in their report they referred again to Kathleen Ford's "HNIC" comment from last week. Ford apparently is hunkering down, however, and again refused to talk about it with reporter Samara Sodos.
There weren't really any other highlights that I can think of. Both candidates had been told NOT to speak about their opponents, but about what their plans were in office.
One interesting comment by Foster, pushing a populist all inclusive message, was that he said he didn't have a vision for St. Petersburg, but instead wanted to spread "your vision". But who decides on what the community's united vision is? Could there be just one?