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Stonewall Democrats blast Deborah Clark for registering voters at Chick-Fil-A locations

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark’s push to register new voters at nine Chick-Fil-A restaurants located throughout Pinellas is not sitting well with the Pinellas County Stonewall Democrats, who say the decision is highly partisan and is “completely disrespectful” to the LGBT community.

Susan McGrath,  the head of the Stonewall Democrats of Pinellas County, blasted Clark’s decision to register voters at the fast-food establishment, whose president, Dan Cathy, has made numerous statements opposing same-sex marriage. 

“As an elected official, you have a duty to be evenhanded and fair,” McGrath writes in her letter, sent oMonday. “Surely, you and your office staff do understand that using Chick-Fil-A as the base for voter registration activities is not only inherently unfair but overly partisan as well.”

Acknowledging that ome Democrats and members of the LGBT community may frequent the chain, McGrath writes that the coordination “with this right-leaning business very clearly conveys that your office is targeting Republican-leaning voters.”

Invoking sarcasm, McGrath goes on to suggest that “Perhaps it would be more transparent if you just went ahead and added the Pinellas Republican headquarters to your list of voter registration locations?”

Though there’s never been a breakdown on the ideology of Chick-Fil-A fans, the restaurant chain was embraced by conservatives in the summer of 2012, when former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee helped organize a “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.” He did that to encourage people to visit the the fast food chicken chain after boycotts by progressives had sprung up in reaction to Cathy’s statement that the company supports “the biblical definition of the family unit.”

Activists also decried the fact the Cathy family’s WinShape Foundation had donated millions of dollars to groups like the Family Research Council and Marriage & Family Foundation, who they considered to be hostile to the LGBT community.

Since then, there have been reports about the franchise dialing back its conservative leanings. In 2014, Cathy told USA Today that he not heard from some unhappy consumers about his comments against gay marriage, but also from some store operators and employees. Now, he said at the time, “I’m going to leave it to politicians and others to discuss social issues.”

McGrath writes that conducting voter registration drives at Chick-Fil-A locations “is completely disrespectful to our county’s LGBT community,” adding that “not only are your ‘Ambassadors’ inside the locations to handle voter registration, but to encourage voters to support this politically conservative business,” she writes.

The Pinellas DemocraticCchair concluded her letter by acknowledging that by sending the letter a day before the planned series of voter registration events, she wouldn’t be able to stop Tuesday’s activities. However, she says she wants Clark to know that “this is NOT how we expect our Supervisor of Elections to carry out its role.”

The hypocrisy coming out of Susan McGrath’s mouth is astounding,” said Nick DiCeglie, chairman of the Pinellas County Republican Party.  “If Chick-fil-a is “overly partisan,” then what is adding an early vote location in the center of Democrat controlled South Pinellas?  Did any Republican groups come out against the Supervisor of Elections holding a voter registration drive at the PRIDE Festival this summer?  If Susan really cared about democracy, she would have no problem with the SOE holding voter registration drives ANYWHERE.

DiCeglie added, “Once again, a Democratic leader paints a picture with a political brush when politics is not a factor.  That being said, I find it funny that Susan is complaining about Deborah Clark when she didn’t run any Democrat candidate against her. This is nothing more than an attempt to distract the voters from Rick Kriseman’s half-truths on the sewage crisis.

 The Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections office told SPB that they would not offer an official comment.

 

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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