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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Pinellas Democratic chairman regrets "disrespectful" voice mail

   Pinellas Democratic Chairman Mark Hanisee says in a written statement "I sincerely regret" leaving a bluntly worded voice mail for a St. Petersburg pastor who was considering running for Congress, and acknowledges it was "disrespectful" for him to do so.

Mark Hanisee also says in his statement, which he also emailed to the Tampa Bay Times, that some were looking for an apology for the voice mail he left for the Rev. Manuel Sykes, urging him not to run for Congress. He did not specifically say he was apologizing. But he did say "Reverend Sykes can rest assured that he has my respect" and that he said he would like to meet privately with him.

The voice mail was posted on last week, along with a Tampa Bay Times story about the matter. In the voicemail, Hanisee told Sykes he would be "persona non grata" if he ran.

Here is the text of Hanisee's statement:


Being the local chairman of a political party is no easy task. I don’t say that to solicit sympathy. I know that respect is earned through actions, not titles.

If I didn’t think I could satisfy the demands of the job, I would step aside.

And if I thought I did something wrong, I would apologize.

Reverend Sykes is a man who earned respect long before he accepted the titles he currently
carries. He earned his respect long before I became chairman of the local Democratic Party.
His respect is not something I can take from him. I’m confident he will maintain that respect long
after I’m chairman.

It was that respect that compelled me to speak with him the way I did. It was my personal
respect for him that obligated me to tell him something he did not want to hear, but needed to
hear. If he was just any, unknown or unviable candidate, I would not have extended myself that

Reverend Manuel Sykes needed to know the hard reality that awaited him on the path he was

Did he deserve to hear what I said on voice mail left on his telephone? No, that was
disrespectful, and I sincerely regret that it happened this way. What he deserved was for me to
look him in the eyes, say what I had to say, and then pay him the respect to hear his response,
if he had any.

There is something else he deserves, too. His privacy. Reverend Sykes does not deserve
for this issue to be exploited by political operatives and the news media to fan division in our
community or dissension within our political party.

Now you might think I’m saying that just because I was caught in a recording that is now widely
distributed. You would be mistaken. Like I said, being chairman is no easy task. Being a leader
himself, Reverend Sykes knows this all too well. Neither of us, nor the local Democratic Party,
will benefit from what has happened here. This, too, is something I can certainly regret.

The word that many are looking to hear is apology. The question is whether I will be seen as
stronger for offering an apology, or for accepting the difficult task of leadership and facing the
consequences of speaking the truth.

Either way, it simply doesn’t matter. Regardless of how anyone feels, nor how the public might
be incited to react, Reverend Sykes can rest assured that he has my respect, and that I wish
him well in any endeavor he pursues.

What I now hope for and would warmly welcome is the opportunity to meet privately with
Reverend Sykes and resolve any differences we may have. He deserves that.

Now I’d like to ask that we get back to advancing the cause of democracy and the benefit of
Democratic leadership in our government.

Mark Hanisee

[Last modified: Friday, May 9, 2014 10:09am]


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