Deveron Gibbons to skip St. Pete Pride mayoral forum
ST. PETERSBURG -- Deveron Gibbons said he will be too busy with work to attend a mayoral forum hosted by St. Pete Pride later this month.
Gibbons, who did not return a request for comment, is the only major candidate who didn't accept the invitation for the June 22 event.
Campaign manager Nick Hansen said Gibbons, the vice president of public affairs for Amscot Financial, has a meeting in Orlando that day with the company's spokesman.
"He travels a lot," said Hansen. "It's not out of the ordinary."
Gibbons will also skip a forum hosted by the St. Petersburg Republican Club June 10 because of work commitments, Hansen said.
But St. Pete Pride organizer David Schauer said Gibbons was trying to avoid taking a firm stance on various issues important to the gay community to avoid controversy.
"He is trying to walk a fine line between being a Republican and not wanting to upset his base, and his base is not really comfortable with gay constituencies," said Schauer, who added some African-American churchgoers who support Gibbons would likely not be happy with him attending a St. Pete Pride event. "The big questions, and the ones that will cause the most discomfort for him, will be the ones about partner benefits, employment protections for staff. He is trying to avoid that."
Not true, said Hansen, adding, "That's a lot to be assuming."
Hansen, however, said he did not know Gibbons' stance on domestic partnership or gay marriage.
The June 22 forum is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. at King of Peace Metropolitan Community Church.
Kathleen Ford, Bill Foster, Jamie Bennett and Scott Wagman have said they will be there. Larry Williams has not formally accepted, but he told the St. Petersburg Times that he plans to attend.
Candidates Ed Helm, Sharon Russ, Paul Congemi and Alex Haak were not invited because they did not raise enough cash to pay the ballot qualifying fee during the last campaign finance cycle, or roughly $1,500.
This is the first mayoral forum organized by St. Pete Pride. The nonprofit is eager for the candidates to voice their views on gay issues after years of getting the silent treatment from Mayor Rick Baker, Schauer said.
Cristina Silva, Times Staff Writer