Sunday, February 18, 2018
Politics

Bell Shoals Baptist Church draws candidates, voters to forum

BRANDON — All of them stumped on their qualifications.

Many recited laundry lists of endorsements. And about half of the 43 candidates who visited Bell Shoals Baptist Church on Tuesday night for the 20th installment of the church's nonpartisan forum invoked a nod to Christianity.

Candidates for federal, state and local offices meandered through two-minute speeches, highlighting their stances and, in many cases, reiterating Christian values in front of more than 600 note-taking attendees.

The session allowed voters to meet and greet candidates for an hour, then listen to their quips. The candidates, including gubernatorial Republican hopeful Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder and Libertarian Adrian Wyllie, often injected one-liners and humor to stand out in a crowded field of mostly Republicans.

Adam Putnam, who is seeking re-election as Florida's commissioner of agriculture, elicited cheers when he ended his speech by barking, "Don't let our state turn into California with this marijuana initiative."

County Commissioner Victor Crist wanted to make sure everyone knew he was running for re-election, not seeking another office.

"I'm Victor Crist," he said. "Not Charlie. Please don't get your Crists crossed."

In the Aug. 26 primary for the District 4 Board of County Commissioners seat that Democrats and Independents are locked out of, all three Republican front-runners spoke.

Retired Air Force veteran and Tampa Police detective Rick Cochran said he has made 20,000 door-to-door visits.

Janet Dougherty described herself as a "lifelong born-again Christian" whose "most important support comes from God."

Stacy White, a member of the Hillsborough County School Board who also is running for the District 4 seat, hung his hat on his 2012 objection to classroom speakers from the Council for American-Islamic Relations.

"I stood with you when a radical Islamic group tried to speak at our schools," White said.

Most candidates also submitted answers to a 16-question survey designed by the Bell Shoals Community Issues Team. Don Kruse was the only GOP candidate to come out in favor of legalized marijuana, say Obamacare should not be repealed and argue that the 2008 Florida Defense of Marriage Amendment should not be enforced.

Robin Lester was the only candidate in the forum to favor the Common Core State Standards Initiative and favor special rights and protection for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals, according to the survey.

Eric Vician can be reached at [email protected]

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