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Audience question at candidate forum fuels mayoral race contention

A member of the audience caused quite a stir this week after asking a question during a Dunedin Commission candidate forum.

He questioned Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski, who is running for re-election, about whether it is true that her husband and son were kicked out of their box seats during a recent Toronto Blue Jays game.

The question, posed by Tom Rask, who writes about local politics for his blog called Tampa Bay Guardian, was met with a room full of boos and backlash, and the mayor refused to answer it.

"I will not answer any questions by the Tampa Bay Guardian," she said before dropping the microphone and sitting back down.

Bujalski, along with her husband and son, recently traveled to Toronto with other city leaders and staff to continue negotiations with Blue Jays officials in hopes of keeping Canada's lone Major League Baseball franchise in Dunedin. The partnership plans, which have long been confidential, are set to become public later this month.

The mayor denies that her family was kicked out of the seats, claiming the charges are "adamantly not true." She said she points the finger at her opponent, Vice Mayor Bruce Livingston, and his campaign.

"People continue to systematically attack my family instead of talking about the issues," she said. "It is really unfortunate that my opponent and his campaign contributors continue with undignified attacks on my family."

But Livingston says Bujalski's accusations are conjecture and that his campaign is not involved.

"I am very disappointed that the mayor would make these allegations without any proof," he said "This is really a smack... I don't deserve that, and neither does Dunedin. This divisive behavior isn't helping anything."