Pinellas Stonewall Democrats to Newton: Disavow GOP endorsements
Hours after former mayor Rick Baker endorsed Will Newton in the District 7 council race Tuesday, the Pinellas County Stonewall Democrats fired off a letter to Newton demanding he "publicly separate" himself from Baker and two other Republicans who have endorsed him: incoming City Council member Ed Montanari and State Rep. Kathleen Peters.
The LGBT group has endorsed Newton's opponent, Lisa Wheeler-Brown.
In a two-page letter to Newton, the LGBT organization said it was concerned that Newton--who they had found to be "a fair and open-minded person with a good heart"-- has changed his positions on gay issues to "become a more accurate reflection of the real Will Newton."
The group said Montanari's Facebook post on Aug. 1, 2012 in which he wrote that he enjoyed lunch at the restaurant's appreciation day, which was held in the midst of protests against the fast-food company's stance on marriage equality.
Baker never met with representatives of the gay community when he was mayor and "is not a person who has demonstrated respect for the LGBT community," according to the letter's author, Beth Fountain, the group's vice president for political action.
Baker didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday evening, but Peters said that she isn't anti-gay.
The letter pointed out that she had voted for HB 7111, which allowed for a religious exemption for private adoption agencies refuse gay couples. And that she had "liked" Montanari's Facebook post.
Peters said she also voted for a bill to allow gay adoption and supported both that right and "choice" on the matter.
"Separation of church and state is important to me," she said.
Montanari said he and Newton would represent all people on council.
"I believe that people are tired of the divisive, vicious attacks in politics today," Montanari said.
Newton said he hadn't received the letter, but would "absolutely not," renounce his endorsements.
"They didn't endorse me and they now directing me what to do?" he said. "They've been silent on their endorsed candidate's campaign's financial problems. I'd like to see that letter."
Wheeler-Brown's campaign has said it made "clerical errors" by misreporting $500 in dental expenses that were listed for months as office rent. They campaign has blamed former campaign manager Nick Janovsky for giving Wheeler-Brown bad advice, a charge denied by Janovsky, who said he never told her to pay for dental work out of campaign funds and left weeks before the campaign's first financial report was filed.
Update: Newton has now read the letter and says the following:
"I'm proud of all my endorsements, including all the Republicans, Democrats and three openly-LGBT elected officials that have endorsed my candidacy."
Newton reiterated that he believed the Stonewall Democrats were attacking him to deflect attention from Wheeler-Brown's campaign finance woes.