Hillsborough County Commission candidate Paddy Moses on Wednesday denied she expressed any prejudice in a 1978 child custody proceeding when she claimed her former husband was endangering their children by letting them visit his residence near a public housing complex.
According to a record of the 16-year-old deposition, Moses told her ex-husband's attorney, "My children have said to me that the n------ are fighting out in the front yard."
In another excerpt from the deposition, Moses said, "I am just not sure that I want them in colored town yet every other weekend."
In defending her transcribed remarks, Moses, 55, said that she was worried about her chidren's safety and that she was complaining to the court that her children's behavior _ as well as their language _ had deteriorated as a direct result of visits with their father in the College Hill neighborhood where he was living at the time.
"There are several words that never cross my lips: the F word and the N word," Moses said Wednesday. "All I can say is that it must have been an error. I've used "colored' and "Negro.' It has to be a typo."
Despite the controversy, former campaign opponent Gerald White said Wednesday that he will continue to support Moses. White, an African-American utility company worker, threw his support to Moses after she defeated him in the Democratic primary for Jan Platt's countywide commission seat.
White said he had spoken with about 20 other prominent members of the African-American community who also would continue to support Moses.
"The consensus here is that there is a real concern about the comments made in the heat of a custody battle for her children," White said. "The reality is that Paddy Moses has done great work for the African Americans at large.
"We are going to continue to vigorously support Paddy Moses and we'll give her a chance to redeem herself through her work and she will continue to be an asset to the County Commission at large."
Michelle Patty, president of Concerned African American Citizens, said her organization will support Republican challenger Chris Hart. However, Patty said the group's endorsement had nothing to do with the revelation of Moses' 1978 remarks.
Though digging up dirt on opponents has become commonplace in today's era of "'negative campaigning," Moses' embarrassing words came from a different source.
TheI Tampa TribuneP reported the 16-year-old incident Wednesday after being alerted to it by the candidate's ex-husband, Delbert Moses.
"I lay all that at Delbert Moses' feet because that's the kind of destructive, disinterested and self-centered person he is," said J. Scott Taylor, a Tampa lawyer who represented Moses in her divorce proceeding.
"She repeated a word spoken by a child. And now to call that a racial epithet is, I think, a mischaracterization."
Delbert Moses did not return a reporter's telephone call or answer a knock at his door Wednesday.
"If you read the deposition, it reads, "this is what my kids are coming home saying,'
" said Moses' daughter, Alisa Moses Nix, now 29. "It was a direct quote to the court, this is what they are coming home with."
Ironically, early in the campaign, David Caton's conservative group, the American Family Association, said it would target Moses because she, in Caton's words, "basically believes that nobody should be discriminated against for any reason whatsoever."
Moses' opponent, Republican Chris Hart, said Wednesday that no one in his campaign had anything to do with bringing Moses' 1978 remarks to the attention of news media, adding that he disliked negative campaigning.
"My campaign is about the future of this community and has nothing to do with my opponent," Hart said.
Moses, meanwhile, still was reeling from the incident.
"I knew I would be open to media scrutiny," she said, "but to take a vicious, vengeful husband who has not been in our lives all these years, . . . why do this three weeks before the election?"
_ Times staff writer Marty Rosen contributed to this report.