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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

The Democrats' Pinellas congressional fiasco

Tonight is the annual Pinellas County "Kennedy-King" fundraising dinner for the Pinellas Democratic party, and the keynote speaker is likely Democratic gubernatorial nominee Charlie Crist making what is said to be his first appearance at Democratic party event in his home county.

But the real story is the simmering anger over how the Democratic party handled recruiting in Pinellas' Congressional District 13 - specifically the way local, state and national Democratic officials strong armed one of the area's most prominent ministers, Manuel Sykes, out of the race. Pinellas Democratic Chairman Mark Hanisee even left a voice mail message for Sykes promising that he would be "persona non grata" if he ran.

"Who is Mark Hanisee to threaten and direct him in a manner analagous to "Massa" speaking with one of his slaves," former St. Petersburg police chief and deputy mayor Go Davis - the most influential African-American leader in Pinellas County - wrote in a front page opinion column of the latest Weekly Challenger" newspaper targeting African-American residents in Pinellas.

While many African-Americans he has spoken with since the news of Sykes' treatment told Davis they would not be comfortable voting Republican, "there is a growing sentiment toward staying home," he wrote. "Chair Hanisee's behavior could very well adversely impact upcoming elections. Why treat a prominent African-American minister with a very large congregation in such a disrectful manner? ... After all, aren't we the party with the big tent, or could it be that tent is shrinking?"

Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch said of Davis'column that "many elected Democratic officials share the same concerns" and that he expects them to speak out further this weekk.
Hanisee said this week he regrets leaving the "disrectful" voice mail with Sykes, but it's no sure thing that will be enough for him to keep his job.

"He has a chance to handle it appropriately, and we'll see if he does," said Pinellas County Commissioner Charlie Justice, suggesting Hanisee still owes a full-throated apology to Sykes.

Caught in the middle of the Democrats' clumsy handling are Crist and the independent congressional embraced by national and state Democrats, independent candidate Ed Jany. The last thing they need is a Democratic party that all but dares African-Americans to stay home in November.

"I don't think we should ever be in the business of discouraging quality candidates," Crist said.Tonight is the annual Pinellas County "Kennedy-King" fundraising dinner for the Pinellas Democratic party, and the keynote speaker is likely Democratic gubernatorial nominee Charlie Crist making what is said to be his first appearance at Democratic party event in his home county.

But the real story is the simmering anger over how the Democratic party handled recruiting in Pinellas' Congressional District 13 - specifically the way local, state and national Democratic officials strong armed one of the area's most prominent ministers, Manuel Sykes, out of the race. Pinellas Democratic Chairman Mark Hanisee even left a voice mail message for Sykes promising that he would be "persona non grata" if he ran.

"Who is Mark Hanisee to threaten and direct him in a manner analagous to "Massa" speaking with one of his slaves," former St. Petersburg police chief and deputy mayor Go Davis - the most influential African-American leader in Pinellas County - wrote in a front page opinion column of the latest Weekly Challenger" newspaper targeting African-American residents in Pinellas.

While many African-Americans he has spoken with since the news of Sykes' treatment told Davis they would not be comfortable voting Republican, "there is a growing sentiment toward staying home," he wrote. "Chair Hanisee's behavior could very well adversely impact upcoming elections. Why treat a prominent African-American minister with a very large congregation in such a disrectful manner? ... After all, aren't we the party with the big tent, or could it be that tent is shrinking?"

Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch said of Davis'column that "many elected Democratic officials share the same concerns" and that he expects them to speak out further this week.

Hanisee said this week he regrets leaving the "disrespectful" voice mail with Sykes, but it's no sure thing that will be enough for him to keep his job.

"He has a chance to handle it appropriately, and we'll see if he does," said Pinellas County Commissioner Charlie Justice, suggesting Hanisee still owes a full-throated apology to Sykes.

Caught in the middle of the Democrats' clumsy handling are Crist and the independent congressional embraced by national and state Democrats, independent candidate Ed Jany. The last thing they need is a Democratic party that all but dares African-Americans to stay home in November.

"I don't think we should be in the business of discouraging quality candidates," Crist said when asked about Sykes.

[Last modified: Saturday, May 10, 2014 9:09pm]

    

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