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Community report

Storms makes political vow

The state Senate candidate says she would work to bar gays and lesbians from being foster parents.

Published April 28, 2006

Despite what she described as threats and "horrible things said and done to me" for her role banning official recognition of gay pride events, Hillsborough County Commissioner Ronda Storms said that if elected to the state Senate she would try to bar gay and lesbian couples from serving as foster parents.

In a TV interview last Sunday, the controversial commissioner also took a shot at former state Rep. Sandy Murman, her main rival for the Republican nomination to succeed Tom Lee in the Senate.

Murman really lives outside the district, Storms said, and doesn't understand the issues as well as a true local.

"Her plan is to move to the district if she gets elected. She lives on Davis Islands in South Tampa. My plan is to keep her on Davis Islands," Storms said in a taped interview for Political Connections that aired Sunday on Bay News 9.

"Nonsense," said Murman. Despite having a homestead exemption on a waterfront Davis Islands home, she said her Savannah Landings townhome in Valrico is her home.

"When my House district encompassed Tampa, I still spent 90 percent of my time in Brandon. ... I keep saying to these people like Storms, 'Just accept the fact that I live there,'" said Murman.

She called Storms "an empty suit who's all style and no substance."

Republicans Storms, Murman and Ray Young, a contractor and former Plant City Chamber of Commerce president, are running in the heavily Republican district that includes eastern Hillsborough, southeast Pasco and a bit of western Polk. Iraq war veteran and Hillsborough Community College staffer Stephen Gorham is the lone Democrat running.

Storms is widely viewed as the front-runner largely because of the high profile she has earned as an often controversial commissioner. She has become embroiled in bitter public arguments with County Commissioner Kathy Castor, vocally opposed adult businesses, and most famously led the fight to stop Hillsborough from recognizing gay pride events.

On Political Connections, Storms said she supported state lawmakers intervening to keep Terri Schiavo alive, wants to pass as many restrictions on abortion as possible and supports changing Florida's practice of allowing gay and lesbian couples from serving as foster parents. Gays and lesbians can care for foster children, but under Florida law cannot adopt children.

"I don't support putting at-risk children in homes that I think are at-risk themselves," she said of gay foster parents.

Storms said the hostility she has received from gay and lesbian residents has been unfair: "I've had all sorts of threats and horrible things said and done to me. ... things done to my church, things done to my home, and personal threats ... never attacked anybody's appearance and in fact worked very closely with people who are out-of-the-closet homosexuals and they will tell you I have never done anything but treat them with dignity and respect in my personal working relationship with them."

Nadine Smith, executive director of the antidiscrimination advocacy group Equality Florida, said she wished Storms' supporters would stop viewing gay parents as an abstraction and instead consider the morality of pulling children away from parents who raised them all their lives. Or the wisdom of refusing to let an aunt adopt a child whose parents are killed in a car accident because that aunt and closest relative is lesbian.

At a time when Florida faces a serious shortage of foster homes, Smith said, "Ronda Storms' hatred of gays runs so deep that she's willing to leave a child in harm's way to take any antigay political swipe. ... The casual way she is willing to attack gay people and tear apart families is just pathetic and to portray herself as a victim is absurd."

Murman said that in the Legislature she and her colleagues explored barring gay foster parents, but backed off when it became clear "we would have a lot of children without homes."

Young said he agreed with Storms on gay foster parents and most other issues, but the big difference between them is style. He said he would be much more diplomatic and collegial. He also noted that unlike Storms and Murman, most of his financial support comes from people living in the district.

Democrat Gorham also disagreed with her position on foster parents: "We've got so many kids out there that have no homes, I don't necessarily believe that to keep limiting the ability to place children in loving homes is the answer."

Asked after the TV interview to elaborate on the threats and attacks on her, Storms provided copies of more than two dozen e-mails, letters and Internet postings, many containing vulgar personal insults and at least one containing a direct threat.

[Last modified April 27, 2006, 14:05:56]

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