Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Voters find gay isn't a pro or a con

So how is it that a county that bans sponsoring gay pride events — in the middle of a state that forbids gays from adopting or marrying — goes and elects an openly gay candidate to the same board that voted for the pride ban in the first place?

I have to keep telling myself, in a variation on the old political proverb:

It's the issues, stupid.

Along with the national history made this week, Hillsborough County managed some of the local variety Tuesday. (Oops, make that Thursday, when officials finally managed to get the vote counted.)

The results were in, and the Hillsborough County Commission's most controversial member was out.

Wrestler-turned-Commissioner Brian Blair was, in the parlance, KO'd.

(Or is that boxing? Thankfully, I won't have to wonder for another four years.)

Blair became known for moral pontificating on subjects like religious holidays for public schools. He tried to stifle members of the public who came to speak on the opposite side of a big environmental issue. He could make the board on which he served look bad and himself worse.

Enter Kevin Beckner, a financial planner with something to say about neighborhoods, balancing growth with environment, transportation and politicians who seem to serve developers. And, oh, by the way, he's gay.

It is important to note that Beckner was not exactly shouting this from rooftops, nor was he campaigning on a "gay agenda," whatever that is. It was just a fact about him, like learning a candidate is married or has kids.

But some politicos, as well as newspaper types like me, wondered if this would be a factor for him in Hillsborough County. A few even opined privately that it might be a mistake to say it.

"Some (political) people asked why I'd decided to discuss it," Beckner said this week. But, he said, "I really believe what is lacking in our government are public officials being open and honest."

In other words, how do you ask for government to be transparent if you aren't?

So how did this play on front porch steps and in church forums in conservative corners of the county? "It just didn't come up," said Beckner's campaign manager, Mitch Kates.

America has the economy on its mind. Voters wanted to hear about affordable housing, transportation, actual issues.

It would be a disservice to say that Blair beat himself in this race, though not for lack of trying. Beckner politicked the old-fashioned way, on grass roots and shoe leather, and he was everywhere. All those yard signs calling for change might have been doing double-duty for him.

Expect that lopsided board to look a little different when he takes his seat soon among his fellow commissioners.

"We had the confidence and the faith in the voters that at the end of the day, they were going to stop and say this is about good government," said Kates, who calls it "the most important race I have ever worked on."

Turns out the world can make sense now and then, even in politics and even here. A forthright guy who by the way happens to be gay can win the day.

He can get elected not in spite of that fact nor because of it, but because he turns out to be the one voters most want for the job.

Voters find gay isn't a pro or a con 11/07/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 11, 2008 7:10pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Here's what it's like inside a writhing, growling Howl-O-Scream audition


    TAMPA — At Busch Gardens, a Howl-O-Scream manager is hunting zombies.

    Auditioner Natalie Rychel, 20, of Tampa, Fla., high fives director of atmosphere Morgan Malice after being selected for a job for Bush Gardens' Howl-O-Scream during an audition at the theme park on Friday, August 11, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. (From left) Auditioners Jared Shipley, 20, of Lakeland, Fla., and Lincoln Scott, 41, of Riverview, Fla., look over. This year, Howl-O-Scream will take place from September 22 to October 29 at Bush Gardens. ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times
  2. Tampa Bay homeowners sue JPMorgan Chase for billing on already-paid mortgages


    ST. PETERSBURG — Two Tampa Bay homeowners are suing JPMorgan Chase Bank for attempting to continue to collect on what they say were already-paid-off mortgages.

    JPMorgan Chase is the subject of a lawsuit by two Tampa Bay homeowners who say the bank attempted to collect on mortgages they already paid off. | [Getty Images]
  3. ‘Please don't let her be dead': Man struck by car recounts Charlottesville protest (w/video)


    CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — With tires screeching and bodies flying, Marcus Martin shoved his fiancee out of the way of a car charging through a crowd of peaceful protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia.

    People fly into the air as a vehicle drives into a group of protesters demonstrating against a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. The nationalists were holding the rally to protest plans by the city of Charlottesville to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. [Ryan M. Kelly | The Daily Progress via AP]
  4. Taco Bell wants you to put 'Pop Rocks' on your burrito


    Have you ever taken the first bite of your burrito and felt like the heat from the hot sauce wasn't enough?

    Taco Bell is trying out its Firecracker Burrito in three California locations. (Taco Bell)
  5. Live video: Mourners gather to remember Heather Heyer at Charlottesville rally


    CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Mourners gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Wednesday to honor the woman who was killed when a car rammed into a crowd of people protesting a white nationalist rally that descended into violence last weekend.

    Women visit a memorial at 4th and Water Streets, Tuesday, Aug. 15 2017,  in Charlottesville, Va., where Heather Heyer was killed when a car rammed into a group of counterprotesters last weekend. Alex Fields Jr., is charged with second-degree murder and other counts after authorities say he rammed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters Saturday, where a white supremacist rally took place. [Associated Press]