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As vote looms to remove her as VP of St. Pete Democratic Club, Rene Flowers defends her endorsement of Bill Foster

in The Bay and the 'Burg by
At Wednesday’s meeting of the St. Petersburg Democratic Club, there is an agenda item to remove Rene Flowers as Vice President of the St. Petersburg Democratic Club because of her endorsement of Republican Bill Foster for Mayor of St. Petersburg.

In her defense, Flowers wrote a scathing memo to Jack Killinsworth, the president of the SPDC, outlining not only why she supports Foster, but also criticizing the club, the Pinellas Democratic Party and other local Democrats for their inconsistent support of Democratic candidates over the years.

This must-read rant can be found in its entirety after the break.
NEVER, in my political history here in St. Petersburg Florida has the Democratic Party nor an individual club become integrally and intimately involved in a Non-Partisan race, to include some of the races that are occurring as we speak! This is evidenced as recent as the mayoral election in 2001 where the two finalists were Rick Baker and Kathleen Ford. In that race I supported someone I considered at the time to be a friend and supporter- Karl Nurse. While he was not successful, I did not support publicly nor did I vote for Kathleen or Rick in the general election because neither individual was my choice.

During this time, however several key community leaders and sitting elected Democratic officials publicly supported and endorsed Rick Baker over Kathleen for their individual reasons. Those same individuals supported and endorsed Rick for a second term. Again, I did not.

There were also a number of Councilmember’s and school board candidates who have campaigned over the years who have received no public support or endorsement from the PCDEC or local clubs (I would be one of those in 1998 and 2001) such as Peterman, Welch, Lasita, Griswold, Newton and yes Ford.

So here we are in 2009 and the decision is made by someone or several individuals to get involved in a partisan way as if it is a partisan election. When the St. Petersburg Tines ran a straw poll back in 2008, I placed second in that poll for Mayor. I decided not to run because I knew it would be a disastrous time to govern in the city because of all of the nuances, but I knew that if I made it on the County Commission that I would have an opportunity to divert some of the St. Pete residents tax payer dollars back into their pockets and community. I stated then, after my decision that if I did not run from the field of candidates that were showcased, that I would support Bill Foster, Which has NEVER been a hidden issue on my part!

I am supporting Bill for the following reasons and none of them have to do with him being a Republican nor I being a Democrat:

He has stood as a lone supporter of mine when I’ve needed funding for the district I represented while on Council

He did not just start (nor stop as others have) providing FREE legal advice Senior citizens and others who cannot afford counsel in my district for more than 10 years now.

He stood with me to save and increase the funding for Youth Employment to keep the kids off the streets (from 30k to 250K).

He supported the renaming of MLK

He stood firm with me when others tried to take the $600K for the capital improvements to be completed on 22nd Street

He stood with me to get the rest of the money to complete Wildwood

He stood with me to raise the level of funding for housing programs for the disadvantaged in my district

He stood with me when the city wanted to severely cut CDBG funds, dollars the community depended on yearly for social service programs and small minority owned businesses.

He supported in every imaginable to keep the SCLC MLK parade funded now the largest event in the Nation)

His knowledge of case law helped tremendously with the lawsuit the council initiated against Bayfront Medical Center when it was discovered that health care, particularly for the indigent) would be severely compromised under the jurisdiction of the merger of Bayfront and BayCare.

He’s been a friend to me and my family members

He was there for me with others when stricken extremely ill in 2005

He openly supported me in my campaign for Council each year and for County Commission

We can disagree and walk out friends-moving on to the next issue-both living to fight another day not as enemies but as friends

Nowhere have I proclaimed to support Bill as a Democrat or head of any club.

I have stood for myself and I have that right!

Nowhere have I proclaimed to stand for any candidate that I have supported in this race or any other as the President or Vice President of a club, an officer of the board nor as a Democrat. ALL of my endorsements have been as a former official serving in the capacity that this party itself has stayed away from and that has been non-partisan races.

What I find most interesting is that the leaders of our party during a Partisan race placed its full loyalty/support/and finances behind an individual who publicly stated they “changed their party because they knew they could not win as a Republican in a district that was well over 78% Democratic. From the President of the organization on down, public support, financial contributions-red carpet treatment was given. Did you place her on any agenda to request NO demand her letter of resignation along with the resignation of others who served in the capacity of an officer? Did the state party request or demand their resignations as well? Was anyone penalized as vehemently as you have sought to go after me in conversation?

Are you asking for President Obama’s resignation? He is the true head of the Democratic Party and he is the leader of what we call the free world and he is the most public and sought after Democrat right now. After all, he has openly supported and placed Republicans in key positions not because they are of a different party but because he felt they were best for the job. Yes, they are appointed seats but the person is still a registered Republican.

In the same election cycle, we had Democratic candidates openly endorse and support Republicans over their Democratic opponents. Where are their resignations or better yet were they even asked? During this current election cycle, we had Democratic elected officials on the state level who represent the party every day openly and publicly support Republican candidates in the Mayoral Race and candidates in the council races who switched their party from Republican to Democrat to run in this cycle (I am sure the great strategist that Barry is told them it was non-partisan but that it might play well-the key word being PLAY, where are their resignation requests? Steve Kornell is a great example of a person who cares and who has a focus on the community and has worked in and for the community. Where was the loyalty for him? It did not take me a day, a second, or an hour to give Steve my YES back in 2008. Despite the calls to request that I change my support on his behalf, the answer has been NO every time because it is my choice!

Memories often run short but allow me to lengthen it for you Jack and remind you of the loyalty shown to you even when I did not know who you were! When I received the call on a Sunday in 2008 from an executive board member of the PCDEC asking that I not run against Darden Rice, but run against you in the race for Supervisor of Elections what did I do? When I was told the conversation took place at the AFL-CIO picnic and you were there what did I do? I got your number from Randall, I called you, and I told you about the call. I was livid and abhorred that the conversation even took place. You yourself told me that an individual at the same event told you that I was not that way and I would not fall under pressure to run against you. Well they told you right. I did not know you but I felt your decision to run was just what a servant heart does. I stuck with you from that point forward!!!!!!! We won’t even mention the words that I shared with the person that called me – I shared them with you and they were not nice. From that point on the heat was turned up on me through certain individuals but I never wavered not once. That same Rene is the Rene that cannot waiver now.

I also recall the attacks on Ken Welch and Calvin Harris in the past. I recall the issues with Ed Helm during his leadership tenure with the PCDEC. I recall the issues even during the recent election with the St Pete Dem Club. My answers, my comments, my support has remained the same for each person listed above.

I have been here before. I was pressured not to support Earnest Williams but I did. I was pressured not to support Charles McKenzie but I did, I was pressured to change my support from Steve Kornell and yes I got calls about Deveron Gibbons. On all occasions I stood firm despite the harsh words, the back turning from people I counted not just as political associates but friends-just like now.

Is it that the rules are different depending on who you are in this party or do we truly stand for democracy at its best?

Unlike some, I am not going to be ashamed of what and who I am so to imply that I have been bought by the Republicans as a comment from you Jack is like fire in my eyes. I work every day and not in a palatial job, I stand firm on my convictions no matter who or what comes and consider myself to be a person who gives her word and keeps her word. You really can’t say that about too many people anymore.

I have absolutely nothing against Kathleen nor have I said anything demeaning about her and I will not. My comments to the reporters have been and will remain that I see a different person, a softer person and she is. I have not asked the St. Pete Dems nor the South St. Pete Club members to follow in any path or direction. The club decides not Rene. And as I have shared before, Kathleen signed on board with Bill even before I did. What changed her mind in this Non-Partisan race was her choice and I applaud her for doing so. What I find disturbing is that we have had good/ no Great Candidates that have worked so hard and have received no support on this level and now we have a person whose participation level has been………? Yet, the carpet is rolled out again. What does this say to those who may be waiting in the wings for their turn?

No matter what, the D for Democrat I received on my voter registration card when I registered to vote is the symbol that I am still going to carry. My ideals and my values when it comes to the America I envision I am still going to support. Bullying and threats and harsh words and vehement conversations have never swayed me, they just emphasize to me that I still have a choice just like you do and that I am still a voice in this world.

I wish each of you the very best and should my hours change to a more suitable schedule I intend to continue to participate with the party and support candidates that have the people at heart. Despite all the very hurtful comments that I have heard about I will not dignify them with a negative response. I will continue to provide each of you with the same level of respect that I always have despite our differences on this issue. When it is a partisan race I will stay the course and when it’s a non partisan race I will look at what horse is in the race and go from there.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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