Sunday, March 20, 2011

Women may decide who becomes Tampa's next mayor (by Suzie)

Tampa made national news when a mailer suggested an unmarried woman should not become mayor because she lacked family values.

Evidence of who created the mailer is inconclusive. Nor is there proof the mailer was ever mailed; it has an invalid permit. Both candidates -- Republican Rose Ferlita, the target of the mailer, and her opponent, Bob Buckhorn, have denied involvement. Both candidates have courted women voters, who may play a key role in the March 22 mayoral runoff, as they have elsewhere.

Did a Buckhorn supporter come up with the mailer in hopes of cornering the market on sexist homophobes? If so, may that person never work in a Democratic campaign again. Or, did a Ferlita supporter create and leak it to the media, hoping it would rally women? If so, that plan worked well.

Outrage spread across Twitter and the blogosphere, including ThinkProgress, Politico, Sociological Images, Bust, the Frisky, Village Voice, Bilerico, Pam's House Blend, Feministing, and then I stopped counting. Page Gardner, founder of Women's Voices. Women Vote, wrote in the Huffington Post about discrimination against single women, especially if they have children. (Ferlita doesn't.)

Echidne wrote about it, as would I, if I didn't live in Tampa and know some of its politics. Peter Schorsch said the mailer was uploaded anonymously to his SaintPetersblog. But some question his credibility; a circuit court judge once said that "he has a history of dishonesty." Schorsch sent the document to Ferlita campaign consultant Anthony Pedicini, who sent it to the St. Petersburg Times, the Times says.

It became news the same day that popular Mayor Pam Iorio endorsed Buckhorn. She said she had not planned to endorse a candidate, but went ahead because of negative and untrue statements made by Ferlita, most notably that Buckhorn had supported a policy requiring police to lock their guns in the trunk of their patrol cars.

Buckhorn replied with an ad calling Ferlita's campaign sleazy. Ferlita responded with a news release, saying:
The ultimate disrespect he has shown me, as a woman, is by calling me "sleazy." With his checkered history with women and women’s issues, and his elitist attitude, I’m not surprised. ... Mr. Buckhorn stop your attacks on women!
The news release also quoted Mary Alvarez, who served on the Tampa City Council with both Ferlita and Buckhorn:
Bob’s attempt to diminish the status of women in politics and the progress that’s been made over the last 100 years is unacceptable.
What?! I've never heard of Buckhorn having a problem with women or with women's issues. I've known him for two decades, since he worked for Tampa's first female mayor, Sandy Freedman, who has endorsed him. Her endorsement is enough for me.

Other prominent Democratic women have endorsed him: Alex Sink, who came close to becoming the first female governor of Florida last year; Linda Saul-Sena, who served on the City Council; state Rep. Betty Reed; and Doris Weatherford, who has published on women's history for more than two decades. The Tampa Tribune, the St. Petersburg Times and Creative Loafing have endorsed him.

Both he and Ferlita are fiscal conservatives who are liberal on some social matters. For example, both supported issues listed on an Equality Florida questionnaire, with three exceptions. They supported the recognition of domestic partnerships for public employees, but Buckhorn gave no response on the creation of a domestic partnership registry for others. He said he was pro-choice and supported the right of gay people to adopt children. Ferlita gave no response on those two issues.

I want more women to run and win elected office. But I don't want them to gain votes through misinformation.