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Barbara Banno calls Stonewall Democrat endorsement of Sam Henderson “tainted”

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

There’s an odd thing that happened in Gulfport this election cycle. Stonewall Democrats, a pro-LGBT political group, endorsed a straight candidate for mayor when a gay candidate is running against him. Both are Democrats.

The group gave its official nod to Gulfport Mayor Sam Henderson for re-election, snubbing Barbara Banno of an endorsement she probably figured was in the bag. It doesn’t look very good for an openly gay Democrat to lose support from a pro-gay rights group to a straight candidate.

But Banno is firing back.

“Politics and behind-the-scenes relationships have deeply tainted the Stonewall Democrats’ recent decision to endorse my opponent,” Banno wrote in a blog post on her campaign website. “I clearly have demonstrated, publicly and repeatedly, my commitment to lead the fight for LGBT equality. My opponent has merely ‘followed’ on this journey — and not even consistently.”

Banno lays out a list of pro-LGBT actions she’s taken and compares them to Henderson.

First, Banno points out that she introduced the city’s domestic partnership registry when on City Council. Henderson, she contends, simply followed by voting in support of the measure.

She also points out that while Henderson eventually supported a resolution endorsing marriage equality, he did so only after recommending a letter be issued, instead of a resolution, that City Council members could choose to sign if they wished.

Banno also said Henderson failed to step forward with a take on her efforts to ensure the Boy Scouts of America, notoriously anti-gay, be held to the standards laid out in the city’s Human Rights Ordinance.

“The decision of the Stonewall Democrats to endorse only my opponent is discouraging not only to me, but to any future LGBT activist who actually puts themselves directly in the line of fire as a true leader and now sees that sacrifice could be overlooked when it matters most,” Banno wrote.

Banno released the answers she provided in a candidate questionnaire from the Stonewall Democrats ahead of the group’s endorsement. Questions centered on high-profile issues facing the LGBT community and asked for specifics on how candidates would use their position to further LGBT equality. The form also asked about previous efforts to support LGBT rights.

Banno highlighted the same actions she referenced in her blog post in her answers. She also added in her response to a question about gay adoption in Florida her personal experience with trying to adopt. Banno and her partner at the time were told they would have to hide their lifestyle to proceed and learned only one parent could legally adopt the child. The other would have to appear in a separate judicial hearing to obtain guardianship.

Banno suspects that Henderson’s answers on the questionnaire may not have been as substantive. She wrote in her blog post that she’s issued “numerous requests” for Henderson’s responses, but she has been “refused and rebuffed.” She openly called on Henderson to release his answers himself. asked Henderson for his responses as well, but he did not immediately respond.

In Banno’s post she wrote that, at the very least, the Stonewall Democrats should have co-endorsed both candidates as was the case with the Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida.

“I will forever be saddened by the Stonewall Democrats’ incomplete decision,” Banno wrote. “But I won’t be stopped. I will continue to represent ALL of Gulfport — LGBT or not — in a way that truly places our community’s best interests above finding ‘the easier way to go.’”

Banno posted the blog Tuesday. She and Henderson face off at the polls March 15.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email

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