ST. PETERSBURG — Chico Cromartie says homosexuality is a choice.
He doesn't honor the Pride flag, promises he won't bow to "their agenda" and thinks the LGBTQ community is thriving in St. Petersburg at the expense of the black community.
And he's running for City Council in one of the state's most gay-friendly cities.
"It makes me more popular as a leader," he said of his beliefs. "Because people understand I'm going to lead based on American principles. Not because they choose to be a homosexual."
Cromartie is running for District 7, which borders Gulfport, one of three candidates challenging incumbent Lisa Wheeler-Bowman. The primary is Aug. 27, and two candidates will move on to the Nov. 5 general election. The race is non-partisan.
Cromartie, 47, broadcasts his views on his Facebook page, which features messages of homage to President Donald Trump and disdain toward the LGBTQ community.
"STOP PROMOTING HOMOSEXUALITY TO OUR CHILDREN," read one post.
Many posts occurred within a few days of St. Pete Pride, the weekend of June 22.
"I hear you south St. Pete! Finally we have a leader who's not afraid to say, 'Too (sic) hell with gay pride & their flag," read a post from June 23.
A post on LinkedIn on June 21 titled "Discrimination Guidelines" says rules prohibiting discrimination should not protect sexuality because it is a choice.
The American Psychological Association says "most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation."
Cromartie, who is black, says the LGTBQ community in St. Petersburg is benefiting at the expense of the black community and taxpayers. He criticized the council, which has three openly gay members.
"The idea that the homosexuals should be considered to receive taxpayer dollars, based on the fact that they choose to be a homosexual, to me is not fair to the other citizens who choose not to be homosexual," he said. "And if I'm elected, I'm going to dismantle all those policies."
He pointed to a resolution the council passed last month that includes LGBTQ-owned businesses in a study of city contracts, which was focused on woman-owned and black-owned businesses. The resolution allocates no money to any businesses. Cromartie could not identify any policy that doles out tax dollars based on sexuality.
On Facebook, Cromartie portrays black leaders as selling out to the gay community. On June 22, the day of the Tech Data St. Pete Pride Parade, Cromartie wrote: "Wondering why your so called black leaders are quiet right now? They're at the gay parade pledging allegiance to Pride for a few $."
Council member Steve Kornell, who is gay, dismissed as false the premise that the relationship between the gay and black communities is zero sum.
"Because who it leaves out is anybody who is both," he said. "It makes every African American LGBTQ citizen invisible."
Spend your days with Hayes
Subscribe to our free Stephinitely newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
The gay community is not the only one to draw Cromartie's ire. Lately he has criticized the "Squad" — four liberal nonwhite congresswomen.
"Those Congress women should go back to their countries and fix that mess, instead of trying to ruin this country with false claims of racism, sexism, bigotry, ect (sic)," Cromartie wrote above an MSN article that says Congress has 29 members who were born outside the U.S. "Foriegn (sic) nationals do not have a right to claim racism in this country only African Americans have that right! Go back to your own counrty (sic) and take your flag with you (Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez) or whatever your name is! How in the hell did all these foreign nationals get in the U.S. Congress anyway?"
Ocasio-Cortez, who represents portions of New York City, was born in the Bronx.
Cromartie, who says he owns property and is living off the proceeds of a recent sale, has been primarily a student for years. He got his associate's degree from St. Petersburg College in 2013, he said; his bachelor's degree in public policy and administration from there in 2017; and is enrolled online at the University of Miami working toward his master's in public administration. He touts his experience on the executive committee of the St. Petersburg chapter of the NAACP from 2015 to 2016 and interning for former council member Karl Nurse.
Nurse confirmed Cromartie interned in his office for one semester. Nurse said he is not endorsing Cromartie.
"I do feel a little bit used, candidly," Nurse said.
Maria Scruggs, president of the St. Petersburg NAACP, served with Cromartie but said she didn't recall him voicing his views.
"I don't concur (with) or support the notion that one group is thriving over the other," Scruggs said.
Wheeler-Bowman, who is black, would not comment on Cromartie's statements.
"I'm so proud of how welcoming and inclusive St. Pete is, and hate has no place here," she said.
The other two candidates, Eritha Cainion and Sarah Elizabeth Moore, could not be reached for comment.
Cromartie, a registered Republican, is running on five initiatives, not all of which abide by traditionally conservative values. His affordable housing plan involves capping rental prices. He wants to lean on the federal and state governments to build a monorail system. He also wants the city to make a larger commitment to solar energy. And he wants to offer incentives to earn licenses or degrees from local educational institutions.
He also wants to provide more resources to first responders.
Cromartie is also skeptical human beings have had a role in climate change. Would he work to prepare St. Petersburg for sea-level rise?
"I would need to see real hard facts in front of my face," he said.
What else doesn't Cromartie believe? That he's a homophobe.
"I'm an American, who doesn't agree with homosexuality," he said. "That doesn't mean I have some phobia, like there's something mentally wrong with me for rejecting homosexuality."
Contact Josh Solomon at email@example.com or (813) 909-4613. Follow @ByJoshSolomon.