Paul Congemi, a candidate for mayor of St. Petersburg, Fla., unleashed a hateful tirade at a mayoral forum on Tuesday, reports the Tampa Bay Times. His attack on LGBT people was delivered to Mayor Rick Kriseman in response to the incumbent's support of equality causes. "I will never endorse sin," Congemi said, according to the Times.
Kriseman became the first St. Petersburg mayor to fly the rainbow flag during Pride Month, something he has done now for three consecutive years. The raising of the flag this year drew protests by evangelicals.
But Congemi earned the most attention for remarks directed at candidate Jesse Nevel, who is affiliated with the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement and is running on the slogan "Unity Through Reparations."
"The reparations that you talk about, Mr. Nevel, your people already got your reparations," Congemi said at the forum. "Your reparations came in the form of a man named Barack Obama." Incidentally, Nevel is white.
After audience members at the forum shouted "Get out of here!" at Congemi, the candidate responded, "My advice to you, if you don't like it here in America, planes leave every hour. Go back to Africa, go back to Africa."
Nevel quickly called Congemi a "nonfactor" in the election. He issued a statement condemning Congemi and linking Kriseman and candidate Rick Baker to the controversial remarks. "The truth is that none of my opponents, including the two big money establishment candidates, Rick Kriseman and Rick Baker, have any real fundamental disagreement with Congemi when it comes to the question of reparations," his statement read.
Kriseman issued a statement only after Congemi's remarks earned media attention. "I was reluctant to engage this candidate last night and draw even more attention to his disturbing message," Kriseman said. "I regret not doing so, though. It is simply unacceptable to spew this kind of bigoted rhetoric. Free speech should not compromise the dignity and respect of any person or community. This candidate spoke hateful words about African-Americans and our LGBT community. He has the right to do so, but nothing about what he said is right. His comments just aren't who we are."
A recent poll by StPetePolls shows Congemi with support from 2.8 percent of voters. That's far behind Baker (45.7 percent) and Kriseman (37.7 percent). Nevel comes in with 1.4 percent in the poll. The election, which takes place November 7, is nonpartisan.