Tiger Bay: Joe, no Gwen

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Joe Redner did a solo act at the Tampa Tiger Bay debate for council District 1 this afternoon, as his opponent Gwen Miller had already told the political club that she could not attend due to a scheduling conflict.

But Redner didn't know that, and he had prepared a speech just for "Mr. and Mrs. Miller," a reference to the Tampa City Council chairwoman and her husband, former state Sen. Les Miller. Redner then broke every rule of modern politics by directly addressing Gwen Miller's attacks on him: for being a strip club owner, for his past arrests, and for saying that he is blacker than she is. "Ladies and Gentlemen, I am not a racist," Redner told one of the smallest Tiger Bay gatherings I've seen this year. "I made no racist remarks." He then talked about going to largely African-American East Tampa last night to campaign and being warmly received.

To his past arrests: "That was a different time and a different Joe," he said of legal troubles more than two decades ago.

To one Tiger Bay female member who asked that since his offer of free entry in the Mons Venus for those sporting an "I Voted!" sticker is meant for men, what is he offering women?: "What do you want?" Redner quipped to a great deal of laughter. Redner then added that the sticker will also get you one week of free workouts at his South Tampa gym — "To vote," he quickly added. "Not to vote for me. To vote."

To allegations that his campaign misrepresented itself: "I really got angry because I felt like my integrity was being questioned. I don't like it." Redner said the incident — in which a campaign caller named Tim Davis was accused by the Miller campaign of calling himself Jim Davis, an apparent reference to the former governor candidate — also showed how he would differ from Miller once in office. He said he asked his consultant to clear the matter up, and when the consultant offered to check later in the evening with the phone bank workers, Redner demanded an answer immediately. Within 20 minutes, he said, he had a photocopy of Tim Davis' driver's license and Social Security card.

Plus, he added in his strongest gig of Miller during the speech, "My phone banking is not talking about Gwen the way her phone bank is talking about me." (Like a similar piece of direct mail, Miller's campaign phone calls point out Redner's arrest record and his ownership of the Mons.)

POSTSCRIPT: The Garfield Award for the best question asked went to Bob Buesing, who asked another runoff candidate in a different race, Frank Margarella, whether he would rather serve with Miller or Redner. Margarella said he could not say anything bad about Miller, but that he had seen Redner a lot more on the campaign trail and that he had "gained a tremendous amount of respect for Joe" and would not mind serving with him. "Joe," he finished, "you have my utmost respect."

The Tiger Bay crowd cheered.

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