On Aug. 27, Chico Cromartie lost his bid to unseat St. Petersburg City Council member Lisa Wheeler-Bowman when he secured just 142 votes in the four-way race.
Three days later, he posted a photo to Facebook of a Pride flag, a symbol of LGBTQ rights, engulfed in flames.
"Defeated? Never!!" Cromartie wrote. "It's a lot easier to see the brighter side of things, especially when a burning pride flag is providing the light!!"
Cromartie, a vocal critic of equal rights for gay people who also believes the Holocaust did not happen, is now running for the Pinellas County Commission District 7 seat being vacated by Ken Welch, who is stepping down to run for St. Pete mayor.
Cromartie, 48, is the first Republican to file paperwork to run in the November 2020 election for the seat that covers south St. Petersburg, Lealman, Gulfport and Kenneth City. So far two Democrats have filed to run: Pinellas County School Board member Rene Flowers and former state House member Frank Peterman.
Todd Jennings, chair of Pinellas County Republicans, said in a statement that Cromartie is “a fringe candidate."
Jennings added: ”He does not have, nor has he ever had, the backing of the Republican Party of Pinellas County, and does not represent our core values."
In an interview Monday, Cromartie said his priorities are reducing drugs and crime, boosting law enforcement resources and creating jobs. He said his stances on social issues are not part of his platform.
But homophobic and antisemitic writings dominate his campaign Facebook page.
He pushed for law enforcement crack downs with a Nov. 24 post stating he would “clean this city/county up, even if I must lock up half of south St. Pete to do it!!!”
“For those blacks who seek reparations, while creating havoc throughout the city and county, as County Commissioner I will make sure jail or a prison bed becomes your reparations,” he wrote. “Then maybe you and your gay pride friends can discuss how to better behave in society over a candle light dinner in your prison cell!”
On Oct. 28, Cromartie wrote a post questioning why American taxpayers are “paying for a so called Jewish Holocaust that allegedly happened in Germany during WWII.”
Cromartie, in an interview, said he does not believe the Holocaust occurred and “I haven’t seen enough evidence to say for sure that six million Jewish people were killed.”
“If the Holocaust did happen, why are American tax dollars going to fund these initiatives?” he said, referring to foreign aid and Holocaust remembrance initiatives. “I don’t want my tax dollars paying for it even if it did happen.”
The mass genocide of six million Jews by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime from is well documented in eyewitness testimony and also Nazi documents obtained during the Nuremburg military tribunals held after World War II.
Cromartie said he is a property manager by profession and wants to run for office to serve the community where he was born and raised.
“My platform is going to be traditional, conservative values and principles,” Cromartie said. “The sewage (problems), the economy, crime, those are going to be what I focus on as a commissioner.”
Part of Cromartie’s City Council platform was for affordable housing. He said this time he will not push affordable housing in the county race because “the citizens of that area rejected it” by not electing him to the city seat.
In the Democratic race so far, Flowers and Peterman have made affordable housing the centerpiece of their campaigns.
Cromartie had his voting rights restored in January under Amendment 4, a 2018 ballot initiative that granted former felons the right to vote.
Cromartie was found guilty of armed robbery following a 1990 arrest and served eight years in prison, according to court records. He was arrested again in 2003 and found guilty on drug charges, serving another three years in prison.
A father of three adult children, Cromartie said his life experience makes him an effective leader. Before prison he said, he was filled with what he called “Democratic ideology” that led him to believe the world owed him something.
Now, after building a career and raising a family, Cromartie said he wants to push personal responsibility and “American values” in local government.