Joe Redner, Ronda Storms pray at Bell Shoals candidate forum
Without question, the most interesting moments of the marathon meet and greet and candidate forum at Bell Shoals Baptist Church on Wednesday night came courtesy of Joe Redner and state Sen. Ronda Storms.
During his two minutes in the pulpit, Redner, who is running for the District 58 state House seat, didn't bother pandering to his ultraconservative audience. Instead, he invited the crowd to bow their heads in a prayer of thanks for the California judge who overturned a rule making gay marriage illegal. The audience booed and yelled no to the invitation. And when Redner said, "I'm honest. I'm competent," he drew jeers. Then he referred to his famed Mons Venus strip club, throwing his arms out wide and saying "You might not like one of the businesses I'm in, but it's the best." He then left the sanctuary.
A few speakers later, Storms received a much better reception when she led a solemn prayer for Redner, asking the Lord to lead him in a better direction. "We know that you are still working with Joe Redner," she said, eyes closed. "We pray for forgiveness if we have not treated him with kindness."
The forum attracted dozens of candidates, including Republican gubernatorial hopeful Bill McCollum, who proudly proclaimed himself a Christian. Then there was Iranian born Farid Khavari, also running for governor, who promised to create one million new jobs and a state bank to loosen credit, and Libertarian candidate for governor John Wayne Smith. Smith is CEO of a company that wants to build a colony on Mars. Really.
A few other highlights: District 12 congressional candidate Doug Tudor leading the crowd in Amazing Grace four hours into the forum; attorney general candidate Jim Lewis declaring: "I have more ex-wives than anyone else in this race. What that gives me is experience."; and AG candidate Pam Bondi showing her Second Amendment creds by saying "I can shoot a gun better than any guy I know."
District 5 County Commission candidate Jim Hosler earned applause when he said: "Government has never created jobs. Small businesses do." District 2 County Commission candidate Linda Pearson delivered a veiled criticism of her Republican primary opponent Victor Crist, saying she objects to backroom deals. Crist has been linked to a last-minute $48-million state appropriation for an opulent courthouse in Tallahassee.
Dentist Marc Johnson lobbed an attack on his opponent in the District 56 state House Republican primary, Rachel Burgin, reminding the crowd that she was selected for the post by insiders when her predecessor dropped out of the race in 2008. District 60 candidate Shawn Harrison talked tough, calling himself an "unashamed conservative and and unapologetic capitalist" who supports an Arizona-style immigration law and opposes gay marriage.
Janet Zink, Times staff writer