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Democratic activist blasts Rick Baker on LGBT issues, but doesn't tell the whole story

Susan McGrath, speaking behind the podium on Wednesday on the steps of St. Petersburg City Hall, mischaracterized former mayor Rick Baker's comments about the LGBT community during the news conference. She later told the Tampa Bay Times that she didn't believe Baker meant what he said about his support for the LGBT community.

[CHARLIE FRAGO | Times]

Susan McGrath, speaking behind the podium on Wednesday on the steps of St. Petersburg City Hall, mischaracterized former mayor Rick Baker's comments about the LGBT community during the news conference. She later told the Tampa Bay Times that she didn't believe Baker meant what he said about his support for the LGBT community.

ST. PETERSBURG — Susan McGrath wears many hats. One is chairwoman of the Pinellas County Democratic Party. Another is president of the Stonewall Democrats. 

On Wednesday, she said those roles played no part in her decision to join about two dozen members and allies of the city's LGBT community to protest the candidacy of former mayor Rick Baker.

"It's not about what party you come from," McGrath said. "It's about being fair and doing what's right."

Baker, she said, never supported St. Pete Pride when he was mayor and didn't make the city's gay community feel welcome.

Then, in front of TV news cameras, she addressed Baker's campaign speech on those same steps the day before. But she did not do so accurately.

"Yesterday we listened to the words of former mayor Rick Baker," McGrath said. "He said things like he wanted St. Petersburg to be a seamless city. He said we’re all in it together. He said the administration we have now tries to divide and promote hate among the people of St. Petersburg. He said he cares about the issues of everybody. He specifically said whether you’re black or white regardless of what your nationality is, regardless of gender, he cares about everybody.

"There was a conspicous omission in that comment. He stopped short of including everybody. He failed, he choked on being able to say that he wants a city where all people are welcome regardless of who you love because he couldn’t get those words out."

In fact, while Baker described his vision of a seamless city in his 40-minute speech Tuesday, he directly addressed the LGBT community.

Here is transcript of Baker's comments transcribed from a recording made by the Tampa Bay Times. The following comments come directly after his comments about the seamless city cited by McGrath:

"And part of that is the LGBT community, a lot of has been said about me and the LGBT community. And I want you to know that I believe that the LGBT is a vital, important part of our community. I believe that when we work together, we have to work together with everyone. I don’t want to govern with 90 percent of the city, I want to govern with 100 percent of the city.

"If you were to look at my administration we had people from the LGBT community at every level of my government through the cabinet level.

"I hate to talk about groups like that, but I have to because I’m being called this and so when I look at folks whoever they are, I’m looking at what they can contribute to what we are doing. Not who they are or what they are," Baker said to applause.

When asked to reconcile her comments about Baker's speech with what Baker actually said, McGrath acknowledged that Baker had, in fact, addressed the LGBT community.

"So I would like to say on record that he said the minimum that he could in response to all of the comments and concern from the city of St. Petersburg, not just from LBGT community, but from all people who want an open, progressive and welcoming city," McGrath said.

After the lunchtime protest Wednesday, Baker's campaign issued a statement reiterating his comments about the LGBT community.

"I want the LGBTQ community to know I stand with and for them," Baker's statement said, "and that while I may not have the support of every member of that community, I support them."

The mayoral contest between Baker and incumbent Rick Kriseman is now just two days old. The primary is Aug. 29.

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 30, 2017 4:44pm]

    

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