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Political junkie

Mayoral candidate tries to clarify stance on krewe -- again

© St. Petersburg Times
published February 6, 2003

For two weeks, mayoral candidate Frank Sanchez has been asked about his stance on Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla's refusal to admit women.

Even Sanchez concedes his words have been confusing.

At a debate Wednesday night at the University of South Florida, he did not make things clearer.

Sanchez and the other candidates were asked if the city should work with groups that aren't fully integrated.

"I believe it is important for the next mayor to set a very high example," Sanchez said. "Where we have a parade where the city is very involved, we have to have access for everyone."

"As mayor," Sanchez said, "I would absolutely insist on it. There would have to be access for everyone."

What did that mean?

After the debate, Sanchez said he meant that the event -- the Gasparilla parade route -- would have to be open to everyone.

"I was not talking about the organization," Sanchez said. He wouldn't "insist" that the krewe be open to women.

Of course, the event has been open to everyone for 99 years.

The only controversy has been whether the krewe should be more inclusive.

That issue hasn't been simple for Sanchez to explain.

On Jan. 24, Sanchez answered a question about the krewe by saying, "Discrimination in any form by government, by important social organizations, is debilitating."

Later, after fielding calls from krewe members, he said: "I believe that the krewe and any private organization has the right to establish its own membership criteria."

Sunday, he issued a statement saying he is sticking to his original statement, which he said had never changed.

Mayoral candidate Bob Buckhorn said Wednesday that he thought Sanchez had changed his position yet again.

"It seemed like he went beyond his original statement," he said.

IORIO WORKER QUITS: Pam Iorio launched her campaign in January, just two months before the mayoral election. So her campaign staff can't afford to get sick.

That's why consultant Beth Rawlins, who was supposed to be Iorio's campaign coordinator, said she had to call it quits.

Rawlins was ill and needed a week's rest. "(Iorio) didn't have a week," Rawlins said.

Rawlins has worked for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill McBride, presidential candidate Bill Bradley and Pinellas County Commissioner Calvin Harris.

Iorio has plenty of help, though. Kay Menzel, who ran Iorio's first run for County Commission in 1984, has moved back to Tampa from Illinois to assist.

ERA VOTE: Hillsborough commissioners took a stand Wednesday in favor of a renewed effort to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. But the vote was 4-3, with all of the Republican commissioners voting against it.

The ERA, passed by Congress in 1972, was intended to provide equal rights to women as the 27th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. But the amendment failed to win ratification of two-thirds of the states under a congressionally imposed seven-year deadline (extended ultimately to 10 years).

In all, 35 states approved the amendment, three shy of the necessary 38. Florida was one of the states on the fence until 1982, when it fell two votes shy of ratification in the Florida Senate.

But a new legal analysis promoted by feminist groups contends the deadline for ratification was invalid. That could prompt Florida lawmakers to renew the issue this year.

Commissioners on Wednesday were considering whether to lend their endorsement.

Commissioner Pat Frank was in the state Senate in 1982 and was one of the ERA's champions. So was Betty Castor, the mother of commissioner Kathy Castor.

As expected, they gave their support Wednesday.

Ronda Storms, a no vote, said she thinks the ERA is an anachronism. She said it doesn't take into account the situation of modern women, who she believes are given ample opportunity to achieve.

"I believe that it creates obligations that shouldn't exist," Storms said.

Frank strenuously disagreed.

"She's spouting the same things that were said by the good old boys in the '80s," Frank said. "She's the beneficiary of a lot of things a lot of (other) people did."

POLITICAL PREDICTION: If Iorio gets elected mayor, we can say Ramon Nunez predicted it first.

Almost four years ago, Nunez was strolling around the County Commission in his guayabera when he waved us over. He leaned in to whisper some news.

The next mayor, he predicted, would be Pam Iorio.

Nunez, publisher of the Tampa Record, died Tuesday night at age 87. He will be missed.

-- Political Junkie is an occasional column on the election season. Got a tip? Bill Varian can be reached at 226-3387 or and David Karp can be reached at 226-3376 or Times staff writer Adam Smith contributed to this report.

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