Several weeks ago, veteran political consultant Mary Repper told mayoral candidate Pam Iorio that several friends wanted to meet her. But the introduction came with a warning.
Her friends included prominent members of the Church of Scientology, Repper said. For years the church has been a subject of controversy in Clearwater, where it has its international spiritual headquarters.
Iorio said she was not concerned. She said they were interested in her candidacy, and that she doesn't ask supporters about their religious backgrounds.
"I viewed them as individuals who lived in Tampa and knew of my record and believed I would be a great mayor and wanted to offer support," Iorio said.
Years ago, Repper acknowledged, she would have never introduced a mayoral candidate to a group of Scientologists. The church was too controversial; many people viewed it as a cult.
Now, Repper said, she has invited Hillsborough county commissioners, City Council members and other elected officials to meet Scientologists.
When Iorio met the Scientologists at a fundraiser March 14 at a South Tampa home, she said they mentioned the church's new Tampa facility, which will open next Saturday at a former cigar factory in West Tampa. But she said they didn't go into details.
Repper, who is not a Scientologist, said 30 to 40 people attended the reception. It wasn't known Friday how much money Iorio raised.