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Pinellas school board candidate: Being elected is “not a priority”

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Robert J. Beal, a first-time candidate, says his first priority is his daughter, who has medical issues, and not the election.

“It’s not a priority to tell you the truth,” Beal said Wednesday. “I have a lot on my plate. … Nothing else matters except for my daughter.”

But Beal said he’s not withdrawing from the District 1 at-large race for the Pinellas County School Board. He just doesn’t plan a vigorous campaign.

“If I get elected, I’ll do the best I can. I’ll do a good job,” he said. “But if I don’t win, that’s OK, too.”

Beal’s public statement comes days after he came under fire for statements he wrote on his Twitter account. They were repeated on a Facebook forum, Failure Factories: Nobody Asked Me. Since then, he said, he’s been inundated with emails from people who were outraged by the statements.

Among those statements:

“Get off the plantation first, then make corrections. LOL!!!”

“Your Ph.D. is worthless. You want the black and poor to stay on the PLANTATION. Your (sic) not smart enough to realize this concept.”

“Bush baby. LOL!!”

Although Beal has since removed the statements from his Twitter account, he said he does not regret making the comments.

“I stand by what I said,” Beal said. “I said what I believe to be the truth, and I stand by it.”

He removed the statements not because he regrets them but because of the flood of emails he received from people outraged by his sentiments. But, he said, none of the outraged emailers gave him a chance to explain what he meant.

He said he does not remember the context of messages, dated July 24, referring to “bush baby” or calling someone a “bushy.” But, in referring to the “plantation system,” he said, he was trying to explain that Democrats “want to keep minorities on the plantation, so to speak. The ghetto is a kind of plantation.”

That’s created a kind of “plantation mentality” in which those who live there don’t want to escape from it, he said.

“They’re trying to make hay out of it,” Beal said. “It’s not racist.”

Beal added that his thoughts about national politics don’t have anything to do with his candidacy for the Pinellas School Board.

“I have political beliefs and thoughts that are outside the Pinellas County schools,” he said.

But at least one of his comments appears to have a lot to do with public schools. On March 15, 2012, he said in response to someone else’s tweet: “Girlfriend daughter (sic) goes to public school doesn’t have a chance to escape the brainwashing.”

Beal said he does not remember the context of the tweet.

Beal did not appear on the dais Wednesday during a Suncoast Tiger Bay Club luncheon meeting that featured candidates running for the three open seats on the School Board.

But that wasn’t because of the furor over his tweets, he said. He actually arrived late, as the forum was winding up. Beal said he thought the event began at 1:15 p.m., not 11:30 a.m. Then, when he arrived, he had a hard time finding the ballroom at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club.

“The place was kind of a maze,” he said.

Beal is running for the District 1 at-large seat on the Pinellas School Board. The seat is voted on countywide. He has three opponents: Matt Stewart, Bill Dudley and Joanne Lentino. The nonpartisan election is Aug. 30. If the top vote-getter does not receive at least 50 percent plus one vote, the two top vote-getters will move to the Nov. 8 general election for a runoff.

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