Earlier this week, as we were putting together a story for our Pride issue that explored the evolution of the LGBTQ community's clout in local politics, we reached out to a number of political players to hear their perspective.
Having already spoken to Mayor Rick Kriseman about the subject at a campaign event, it was only fair to reach out to the campaign of former Mayor Rick Baker, who is the most formidable barrier in Kriseman's quest for reelection.
Via email, we sent several questions to Baker through a campaign spokeswoman.
These included questions about LGBTQ activists' influence on local politics, how that has evolved over the years, whether that has affected his approach to campaigning and policy positions and how he'd be reaching out to the LGBT community. We also asked what his plans for Pride were this weekend (we didn't specifically ask whether he would march in the parade, though we feel that was implied given all the recent chatter) and whether, if re-elected, he'd raise the Pride flag above St. Pete City Hall, as Kriseman has done to kick off St. Pete Pride in the four years he's been mayor.
As happens with busy campaign schedules, Baker's people were unable to get back with us by deadline for our weekly print edition.
Hey, it happens.
But on Thursday morning, they finally got back to us with this reply from Baker, sent through his spokeswoman:
“Many of the members of the LGBT community I have spoken with have reiterated that ‘LGBT’ issues are everyone’s issues — a desire for safe streets, good paying jobs, taking care of our environment, and repairing the damage Rick Kriseman has done to our sewer system, pier and city finances. I want to help build a seamless city, and that means being accountable and responsive to all members of our community.”
So, in other words, 1) Dunno. And 2) There's poop in the water. 3) 'Member the Pier? 4) 'Member Reagan?
We're not going to unpack the “sewer system, pier and city finances” stuff right now beyond noting that it's starting to become more newsworthy when Baker doesn't hang St. Petersburg's extremely complicated wastewater woes solely on Kriseman in any comment regardless of its relevance to the topic at hand. (Has that happened yet? No? Okay.)
Oh, and that the Pier is a tad beyond repair these days.
But while he’s correct in pointing out that no minority or majority group votes monolithically, nor should they, he flat-out avoided the questions about the significance of LGBTQ activism in local politics or his Pride plans. The Tampa Bay Times later reported that he does not plan on marching but will attend the Sunday street festival. No word on whether he'd ever do the rainbow flag thing, though he did tell us weeks ago that he would at least issue a proclamation honoring St. Pete Pride each year if elected.
That apparently doesn't satisfy the likes of Equality Florida founder and director Nadine Smith, who penned an endorsement of Kriseman that doubled as a scathing takedown of Baker.