TAMPA — Immigration, offshore oil drilling and the rights of gay couples to adopt children were hot topics during a District 47 state House candidate forum Friday at a Tiger Bay Club meeting.
The race has only one Democrat, attorney Michael Steinberg.
Five Republicans are vying to represent Carrollwood and Northdale: Retired Verizon lobbyist Irene Guy; attorney James Grant; former Hillsborough County Commissioner Brian Blair; business owner Tom Aderhold; and Rich Reidy, a legislative aide to County Commissioner Ken Hagan.
The most heated exchange in the generally low-key forum involved the topic of allowing gay couples to adopt children.
The five Republicans all said they believe children are best raised by a mother and father.
Steinberg, though, earned applause when he said the state should repeal the law that forbids such adoptions.
"I know children who are being raised by two women and they are just as stable and just as well-adjusted as any other children," he said.
He likened the ban to a policy in place when he first started practicing law that kept mixed-race couples from having custody of children after a divorce.
That prompted Grant to ask the group to waive the rules so he could comment a second time on the topic.
"To make the analogy between interracial marriage and raising a child in a homosexual family is absolutely outrageous," Grant began.
Steinberg was the only candidate to flat-out reject drilling for oil any closer to the coast of Florida than is currently allowed. Reidy said drilling within 10 miles, as has been proposed, is "unacceptable."
Blair said the country still needs to drill for oil, either by perfecting the technology for drilling in the Gulf of Mexico or starting in western states such as Montana and Wyoming.
"Environmental disasters are terrible. The loss of life is worse. When a plane crashes, do you stop flying? No," he said.
When asked whether they would back an immigration law similar to one passed recently by the Arizona legislature, the candidates were mixed.
Reidy said no, adding that Florida doesn't have the same type problems as Arizona. But he said illegal immigration is a concern because it costs the state $3.8 billion a year. He said he supports the use of E-Verify, an electronic system that checks a potential employee's immigration status.
Aderhold and Blair took the toughest stances, saying they support the Arizona law.
"Overwhelmingly, America supports what Arizona did to control the flow of illegal immigrants," Blair said. "And God bless the legal ones."
Steinberg said after reading the Arizona law, he determined it wasn't that much different from what federal law allows.
He called it a purely political measure.
"It was a bad bill because it just incites the general public against one group of people," he said.
Republican Kevin Ambler, who currently represents District 47, is running for the state Senate.