DADE CITY — A candidate forum for an open City Commission seat took a strange twist Monday night as one of the candidates walked out in protest saying she wasn't going to get a fair shake from the Chamber of Commerce, which sponsored the event.
Angelica "Angie" Herrera is facing incumbent Scott Black in the April 8 election. As in past years, the Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce held a forum for candidates to field questions from the public and moderators.
During Monday's forum, held at the Dade City Business Center, Herrera, 54, used her two-minute opening statement to describe herself as a hard worker interested in cultivating racial and religious diversity and equal rights in the city.
Then she walked out after saying the forum was biased in favor of her opponent because a chamber member had contributed to Black's campaign.
"At this time I will leave and let you continue this unfair forum," she told several dozen people in attendance, about half of which followed her out the door.
That left the moderators, Times editorial page editor C.T. Bowen and Tampa Tribune columnist Tom Jackson, to offer the hour to Black, who showed little reaction short of a smile and welcomed continuing the forum.
Black, 49, was first elected in 1990 and is seeking a seventh term. He fielded questions on budget constraints and economic development, and said Dade City has a bright future of sensible growth. Black was also questioned about a recent vote held during a workshop that split the city's finance and city clerk positions into two and led to the departure of longtime employee Jim Class.
Black, who was on the losing side of the 3-2 vote, expressed his opposition at the time to holding the un-advertised vote and told the crowd Monday he was glad the commission later voted to ban workshop votes.
"Hopefully we learned our lesson," Black said.
After the forum, Black said he was disappointed that Herrera left because he had looked forward to an in-depth discussion for the public to learn about both candidates' vision for the city.
"I'm not sure who advised her to do that, but I am sure the people in attendance would have liked to have heard from her," Black said.