Less than a week after the massacre at a gay club in Orlando, hundreds of Florida Democratic activists are gathering at The Diplomat in Hallandale Beach today for the state party's fundraiser gala. Emotions remain raw, and at an LGBT caucus meeting today sprinkled with cheers, tears, and jeers, Democrats made clear they had no sympathy for those arguing that politics should be put aside in the aftermath of such a tragedy.
"It's only not a good time for politics, if your on the other side of these issues," said Bob Poe, former state Democratic Chairman and now a congressional candidate in Orlando. "They use that like Kryptonite -- 'Oh, don't raise that now because it's not the time. It's tawdry to do that now.' Well, when is time? When the emotions die down and people start to forget?" I'd like to ask (Attorney General) Pam Bondi, if not now, when?"
At a state party LGBT Caucus meeting Saturday, people sounded as angry as they did sad.
"Across the country the same politicians who've offered thoughts and prayers for the Orlando victims are pushing anti-transgender bathroom bills and so-called religious freedom laws.These actions not only disparage people, they fuel anti LGBT sentiment and serve as an inspiration for someone like Omar Mateen to go into a gay club and kill people," said Terry Fleming of Gainesville, president of the Florida Democratic Party's LGBT Caucus, who said the caucus also stands with "Our Muslim brothers and sisters" and will speak out against effort to paint an entire religion as dangerous.
Alan Clendein, vice chairman of the state party and candidate for Hillsborough School Board, singled out several Florida politicians who converged in Orlando after the shooting,
"I'm angry when I turn on the TV and see Gov. Rick Scott hogging the camera. I'm angry at Pam Bondi going on TV pretending to be a friend to our community. I am angry when I saw Marco Rubio hogging that camera and doing the same thing," shouted Clendenin, who is gay. "We cannot give them a pass for the rhetoric and the hatefulness that they have spread though our state for years, They cannot do that for years and come in on Sunday and pretend that they're our friends. Because they are not. Never forget how you felt Sunday morning."
Florida Democratic Chairwoman Allison Tant tried to hold back tears. "This has been an attack on part of my family," said Tant, likening it to the Charleston church shooter killing African-Americans -- another loyal Democratic constituency.
"I will stand with you, I will be with you until the last day," she said, recalling that her uncle committed suicide after being outed as gay.
Two contenders for governor in 2018, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Tallahassee U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, also paid their respects, with Graham breaking into tears as she urged everybody simply to love one another.
Buckhorn said any community in Florida could have had to endure what Orlando has, and that Florida and individual community progress when they embrace diversity.
"As a community we are so much better, we are so much stronger, we are so much more competitive when we value the worth of everybody. I'm my community we don't ever demonize anybody for any reason," Buckhorn said. "I don't care if it's the color of your skin, the origin of your birth, the language that you speak, the god that you worship, or who you love. We're not doing it. Not on my watch. Not ever."
Two other Democratic gubernatorial prospects, State Sen. Jeremy Ring and Miami Beach Philip Levine, also are expected to attend, and Levine is hosting a reception for city officials.