Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Person in chicken suit ruffles feathers in St. Petersburg mayoral race

ST. PETERSBURG — The city is a little more than six weeks from a mayoral primary election for which thousands of dollars will be spent and dozens of ideas will be debated, but the buzz around the local political scene isn't focused on the candidates or the issues.

It's all about a chicken.

Specifically, the person behind it (and inside it).

Three times this week, someone in a bright yellow suit with wide blue eyes and a crooked beak has come to mayoral forums with a sign that says "Kathleen Ford: Too chicken to debate Foster + Kriseman."

Now, after days of speculation, a number of clues seem to point to a man with similar such mischief in his past: local blogger and political consultant Peter Schorsch, a fierce Ford detractor.

Despite adamantly denying any connection, Schorsch has made comments (online and off) that imply he's involved; several St. Petersburg political insiders say he's responsible; and a fellow consultant says Schorsch told him last week that he intended to pull the prank.

Last Friday, local attorney and political consultant Johnny Bardine met with Schorsch at Kahwa Coffee in St. Petersburg to discuss a council race.

There, Bardine said, Schorsch told him of his plan.

"He told me he was going to do something to put some pressure on Kathleen for dodging these forums," Bardine said. "And he specifically mentioned a guy in a chicken suit."

Schorsch denied that.

"Johnny is absolutely lying and he's doing so because I'm beating up on his client," he said, referring to District 8 council candidate Steve Galvin.

Bardine insisted he was just recalling what Schorsch told him, an idea he even endorsed.

At 5:47 p.m. on Tuesday, Schorsch called the Crossroads Area Neighborhood Association, which was hosting a political event that night at St. Petersburg College Gibbs Campus, to ask for directions.

Schorsch didn't show, but, 45 minutes after that call, the chicken and its sign made their first appearance — in front of Ford.

Not long after, at a mayoral debate downtown, Schorsch told a Times columnist to expect news on Ford's absence.

About 15 minutes later, as Mayor Bill Foster was making his introduction, the chicken walked in. Former state Rep. Rick Kriseman also was at that event, but Ford had said earlier she couldn't attend because of her prior commitment to Crossroads.

The mayor fumbled a few words. People laughed. They took photos — the intruder even posed in one for Schorsch.

"I was alerted that the chicken was going to be there," Schorsch said Thursday.

He said he received an anonymous message about the surprise, but declined to share the person's email address.

The next day, Ford missed a debate hosted by the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club, where Schorsch is an officer.

As the moderator joked about Ford's absence, the chicken appeared via a back door before hastily leaving the same way.

"That was a genuine surprise," Schorsch said, "even to me."

But later that evening, in an online comment on tampabay.com, Schorsch posted this: "And the first phase of my 'Stop Kathleen Ford' program is a success. Not bad for a couple of blog posts and a chicken suit."

The statement seems to imply Schorsch is taking credit for the prank, but he insisted it's being misconstrued.

He said he meant that his blog posts about Ford's absences triggered coverage from the Times, which he believes inspired someone to don a chicken suit.

"I did not have anything to do with it," Schorsch said. "I think it's a wonderful idea, though."

Schorsch is no stranger to political trickery.

In the 2009 mayor's race, he was fired by candidate Jamie Bennett for giving out baseball tickets to the city's suite at Tropicana Field in a campaign folder that included an election contribution request.

Bennett denied knowing that Schorsch had done it. Schorsch said the candidate knew.

Schorsch also alleged that the two men had undertaken a variety of dirty campaign tactics to discredit opponents — including paying homeless people to heckle Ford at a news conference.

John Woodrow Cox can be reached at jcox@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8472.

Person in chicken suit ruffles feathers in St. Petersburg mayoral race 07/12/13 [Last modified: Friday, July 12, 2013 10:33pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Britain investigating missed signals over Manchester bomber

    World

    LONDON — Britain's domestic intelligence agency, MI5, is investigating its response to warnings from the public about the threat posed by Salman Abedi, the suicide bomber who killed 22 people and wounded dozens more in an attack at a crowded Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, last week.

    People gather Monday at St. Ann’s Square in Manchester, England, to view tributes to victims of the suicide bombing that killed 22 on May 22 as a concert by Ariana Grande was concluding.
  2. Trump condemns killing of pair who tried to stop racist rant

    Nation

    The mayor of Portland, Ore., on Monday urged U.S. officials and organizers to cancel a "Trump Free Speech Rally" and similar events, saying they are inappropriate could be dangerous after two men were stabbed to death on a train as they tried to help a pair of young women targeted by an anti-Muslim tirade.

    Coco Douglas, 8, leaves a handmade sign and rocks she painted at a memorial in Portland, Ore., on Saturday for two bystanders who were stabbed to death Friday while trying to stop a man who was yelling anti-Muslim slurs and acting aggressively toward two young women. From left are Coco's brother, Desmond Douglas; her father, Christopher Douglas; and her stepmother, Angel Sauls. [Associated Press]
  3. What major sporting event could Tampa Bay land next?

    Lightning Strikes

    We are on quite a roll as a community. First, we had a Super Bowl drop from the storm clouds into our lap. It just reaffirms the fact that Tampa Bay is great at lap. And Monday it became official: Next year's NHL All-Star Game will be held at Amalie Arena. The best in the world will be here to shoot and score. And …

    MVP Wayne Gretzky is congratulated at the 1999 NHL All-Star game, the last time the event was in Tampa Bay. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times file]
  4. How the 2018 NHL All-Star Game reflects Jeff Vinik's vision for Tampa

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — There were several reasons the NHL announced Monday that Tampa will host the 2018 All-Star Game on Jan. 28.

    This was the  logo for the 1999 NHL All-Star game played Sunday, Jan 24, 1999 at the Ice Palace in Tampa Bay. (AP Photo)
  5. Photo gallery: Nation pays respects to America's war dead on Memorial Day

    Human Interest

    At Memorial Day ceremonies in Tampa Bay area and around the country, Americans paid tribute to the men and women who gave their lives in service to their country.

    Eight-year-old Piper St. Jean, of Tampa, uses a brush to clean the grave of her grandfather, Henry St. Jean, who served with the United States Air Force during the Korean and Vietnam wars. at Curlew Hills Memory Gardens on Monday moments after the conclusion of their 31st annual Memorial Day Service on Monday (5/23/17) in Palm Harbor. The event featured guest speakers, live choral performances by the Palm Harbor United Methodist Church choir and live music by Bones South, an area trombone ensemble with rhythm section. On Saturday local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops placed flags on veterans???‚??„? graves prior to the event. This is an annual tradition of Curlew Hills' Memorial Day services and helps the Scout troops achieve merit badges. The event is free and the public is invited to attend.