On June 26, Susie Stroud and Robbie Kety hosted a fundraising reception for Mayor Kriseman in their St. Petersburg home.
A couple dozen supporters were in attendance and it came as no surprise that several identified as LGBTQ. Kriseman has been an outspoken supporter of LGBTQ rights since his first mayoral campaign in 2103, in which he upset incumbent Mayor Bill Foster, winning 56% of the vote to Foster’s 44%.
This year Kriseman faces former mayor, Rick Baker, who held the city’s top position from 2001-2010, but “had a rocky relationship as mayor with the city’s large gay community,” reported the Tampa Bay Times earlier this year.
Although Baker has addressed the LGBTQ community more openly during his current campaign, fundraising event attendees have not been convinced by Bakers’ empty promises and have decided, instead, to back Kriseman.
“[Kriseman] doesn’t see us as separate. He sees us all as a family. He has a strong sense of community,” said Lisa Palmer, a campaign volunteer. “The current climate has created such a sense of separation.”
As an ally, Palmer worked with POWARS (Pet Owners with AIDS Resource Service) in NY during the AIDS crisis. “I provided dog walking, food delivery, vet care, and foster care services to patients with AIDS. I had to go to lots of funerals and so many families weren’t there. I would sit there with the deceased’s dog at the funeral,” said Palmer through tears.
Originally from Tennesse and now a resident of St. Petersburg, Lyn Worsham says that the most important issues to her are “abortion rights and support for the LGBT community.” She feels strongly that Kriseman is the right person for the job and her wife, Cheri Brown, agrees.
“The main thing for me is to keep the city moving forward with the social climate,” said attendee Andrea Hayes with wife Japhia Kendall. She believes Kriseman is the only one who can make that happen. “He’s perfect. He brings hope for continued progress in the next years.”
City Council Chairwoman Darden Rice shared a few remarks during the fundraising reception, honoring Kriseman for his work during the Orlando Massacre.
“All I had to do was pick up the phone and call Rick Kriseman [following the Orlando Massacre] and say ‘people are hurting’,” said the openly-gay Chairwoman to the crowd gathered in the dining area.
“Mayor Kriseman did not even hesitate,” she continued. “He said, ‘Yes! I will be there, the police will be there. Tell everyone you will be safe.’ That is who Rick Kriseman is.”
Kriseman followed Darden’s speech with a few words of his own. “If it’s bad for our country, it’s bad for our state, and it’s bad for our city, I’m going to speak out about it,” said Kriseman to cheers.
“It’s important for us to be that beacon of light. It’s important for us to be a place where everyone can feel welcome. Where we don’t just tolerate diversity, we celebrate it.”
To learn more about Kriseman, or to donate to his campaign, click here.