Sunday, June 24, 2018
Politics

Men masquerade as firefighters to wave signs for Largo candidate Hunsicker

LARGO — If you visited the Pinellas Supervisor of Elections' Starkey Road office Monday afternoon, you may have seen some men dressed like firefighters campaigning with Largo City Commission candidate Bob Hunsicker.

They were Bob's son, Andrew Hunsicker, 32, and his friend Antonio Suescum, 42, both of Seminole. They are not firefighters. They have never been firefighters. Hunsicker is a consultant for Chevron. Suescum sells real estate.

The men say they dressed up like firefighters — Andrew Hunsicker wore bright yellow overalls and a matching helmet; Suescum wore a yellow jacket and a black helmet he bought at a Halloween store — because they wanted to show voters Bob Hunsicker supports firefighters.

Andrew Hunsicker called it a "good, fun politicking joke." The Largo Professional Firefighters and Florida Professional Firefighters, which endorsed Hunsicker's opponent, James Robinson, are not laughing.

"To masquerade family or friends in firefighter protective gear … is a clear attempt to imply the firefighters are supporting Bob," said Florida Professional Firefighters spokesman Jim Tolley. "Based on his deceptive actions in his campaign, one would have to question his integrity."

Macho Liberti, spokesman for Largo Professional Firefighters, agreed.

"It is sad to see Hunsicker is willing to stoop to this level," he said.

Bob Hunsicker, 69, a semiretired electrical engineer, called his son's costumed sign-waving "a spur of the moment thing" and dismissed the criticism.

"I never said I have the support of the unions, I just said I want to make sure there are four firefighters on a truck," said Hunsicker, referencing a recent budget cut that dropped staffing levels on one of Largo's fire engines from four firefighters to three.

Hunsicker's opponent, Robinson, drove to the elections office Monday after getting a call from a firefighter about Hunsicker and Suescum. He asked Bob Hunsicker if he thought it was misleading, and then tried to take a picture. Both Hunsickers and Suescum smiled and posed.

"It actually turned out to be kind of an amusing afternoon," said Bob Hunsicker.

Candidate Robinson, 35, the manager of Largo Feed & Pet Supply, had a different take.

"It's extremely misleading," Robinson said. "That's all I really have to say."

Andrew Hunsicker said he decided to dress as a firefighter after he went to vote Monday morning and saw firefighters — real ones — waving signs for Robinson. He felt that incorrectly implied to voters his father is anti-firefighter. He had the firefighting garb from an old job in the oil and gas industry.

"There was no intent to mislead," he said. "I think the unions are having buyer's remorse with their endorsement of my father's opponent."

The endorsement by fire unions seems to be a defining characteristic of Robinson's campaign. His campaign website — robinsonforlargo-com.webs.com — has two images: a headshot of himself and the symbol for the International Association of Firefighters. The union symbol is as big, and displayed as prominently, as Robinson's picture.

While both candidates have called for increased staffing for Largo Fire Rescue, Largo union officials endorsed Robinson because they felt he would do a better job working with fellow commissioners. Hunsicker is far more critical of the current commission than Robinson.

Suescum, Andrew Hunsicker's friend, was puzzled that his outfit Monday generated controversy.

"There's nothing wrong with wearing a Halloween fire hat and saying 'Vote for Bob Hunsicker,' " Suescum said. "I would dress in a clown suit if it would help get him elected."

Contact Will Hobson at (727) 445-4167 or [email protected]

Comments
A jogger accidentally crossed into the US from Canada and was detained for two weeks

A jogger accidentally crossed into the US from Canada and was detained for two weeks

The coast of White Rock, British Columbia, in western Canada looks to be an ideal place for a run, with its sweeping views of the Semiahmoo Bay to the west and scores of waterfront homes and seafood restaurants to the east. That’s what 19-year-old Ce...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Why a small-town restaurant owner asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave - and would do it again

Why a small-town restaurant owner asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave - and would do it again

LEXINGTON, Va. - Stephanie Wilkinson was at home Friday evening - nearly 200 miles from the White House - when the choice presented itself.Her phone rang about 8 p.m. It was the chef at the Red Hen, the tiny farm-to-table restaurant that she co-owned...
Published: 06/24/18
Six candidates waltz into their seats as qualifying ends. The rest still have a fight

Six candidates waltz into their seats as qualifying ends. The rest still have a fight

Six local candidates across Tampa Bay — all county commissioners and city council members — effectively won their elections Friday by default: No one qualified to run against them.The rest still have a fight.Some will square off in an Aug. 28 primary...
Published: 06/22/18
Former Tampa police corporal qualifies as Democrat to run for Hillsborough sheriff

Former Tampa police corporal qualifies as Democrat to run for Hillsborough sheriff

TAMPA — A Democrat has officially joined the race for Hillsborough County sheriff.Gary Pruitt, a 50-year-old former Tampa police corporal who now works as director of security at a local mall, qualified Friday to challenge Republican Sheriff Chad Chr...
Published: 06/22/18
Carlton: Could anything be more partisan than going nonpartisan?

Carlton: Could anything be more partisan than going nonpartisan?

So Hillsborough County commissioners — most of them, anyway — want voters to consider dropping political parties from certain elections, making those races nonpartisan instead.This would mean when you go to vote in those elections, you won’t know if ...
Published: 06/22/18
Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

NEW PORT RICHEY — A seasoned historic hotel renovator and operator is going to take a crack at getting New Port Richey’s city-owned Hacienda Hotel back into action. New Port Richey City Council members, acting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, u...
Published: 06/20/18
Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis stepped into a growing controversy over President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, criticizing the separation of migrant families at the U.S.-Mexican border and saying that "populism" and "creating psychosis" are not t...
Published: 06/20/18
Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Well, that didn’t last long.U.S. Army veteran Michael Sean McCoy filed to run as the Republican candidate in the State House, District 57 race just hours after incumbent State Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia, announced he was stepping down.McCoy, who live...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

At this moment, she is Tampa Bay’s most influential export. A smart, accomplished and powerful attorney making life-altering decisions on an international stage.But what of tomorrow? And the day after?When the story of President Donald Trump’s border...
Published: 06/19/18
‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

SEATTLE — The call came at mealtime — an anonymous threat demanding $5,000 or her son’s life. So Blanca Orantes-Lopez, her 8-year-old boy and his father packed up and left the Pacific surfing town of Puerto La Libertad in El Salvador and headed for t...
Published: 06/19/18