LGBTQ issues, guns emerge at debate as March 13 election looms

By : Damon Scott of the South Florida Gay News
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ABOVEFort Lauderdale Candidates Forum – Mayor and Commission Seats. Photo from Carolyn Burns Facebook.

Whether the city-owned War Memorial Auditorium should allow guns shows to continue and an LGBTQ-related fundraiser in Miami were two of many issues raised at a mayoral and District 2 commissioner candidate forum Feb. 26 in Fort Lauderdale.

Dean Trantalis and Bruce Roberts are on the ballot to be the next mayor of Fort Lauderdale. The two joined Steve Glassman and Tim Smith, who are vying to be the next District 2 commissioner, at a debate in front of a full room at ArtServe.

In the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, moderator Brittany Wallman of the Sun Sentinel quickly asked Trantalis and Roberts if they thought the Florida Gun Shows company should be allowed to continue to host its annual events at War Memorial.

“It’s a sin that we allow it to happen,” Trantalis said. “Every year I ask it to be discontinued. We shouldn’t have to wait for 17 children to die to know what the right thing to do is.”

Trantalis and Roberts both agreed the venue wasn’t appropriate — a place where children often play and have activities at Holiday Park.

Roberts, who is a vice mayor/city commissioner for District 1, and former police chief, said he also supports a ban on the sales of automatic weapons and high capacity magazines to those under 21.

Trantalis was asked about criticism lobbed his way by accepting support from the national group Victory Fund, who held a fundraiser for him in Miami recently. Victory Fund supports the election of LGBT candidates.

“I’m a gay man, is there a secret about that?” said Trantalis to chuckles in the audience. Trantalis would be the first openly gay mayor of Fort Lauderdale if elected. He is now a city commissioner for District 2.

“Not all [campaign] money comes from [within the] boundaries of Fort Lauderdale,” he said. Trantalis said he was able to recently spend time with the executive director of the Victory Fund, former Houston mayor Annise Parker, and learn about how that city deals with problems and how some solutions could be applied to Fort Lauderdale.

“It was a great education,” said Trantalis, adding that he didn’t understand the criticism by being supported by the Washington D.C.-based group. “I learn from as many people as possible.”

Roberts contends his criticism of the Miami event and Victory Fund is “not so much the organization, but the location.”

“I think influence from outside the area and the state takes away from the localness [of the campaign],” he said.

Glassman and Smith took to the podium following the mayoral candidates.

The two debated over who had the best record and vision when it came to development in Fort Lauderdale. Glassman has served on a number of Broward County boards and groups and also on the city’s planning and zoning board for six years.

One of the more tense moments during the debate regarded a campaign comment Smith previously made about the “gay vote” in the district. District 2 has historically had a high percentage of LGBTQ residents.

Smith has been accused of saying the district doesn’t need a gay commissioner and making the comment: “Is there a gay vote and does it matter?”

“I believe you use [the term gay] as a wedge and I want to use it to unite people,” said Glassman, who is gay. “You can’t label a group of people. Labels aren’t good,” he said.

Smith said he’s an activist for the rights of “all people.”

“I truly believe you shouldn’t judge people by x, y, z, and I’ve lived that life,” he said. “No one has fought for gay rights as much as I have. You should judge people by who they are and what their character is.”

The general election is March 13.

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