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David Straz speaks to reporters after making the runoff, barely.

Tampa Bay

David Straz campaign returns hundreds of Bay News 9 forum tickets after ‘hijacking’ most of them

“It’s too bad that Mr. Straz wanted to hijack and stack the audience.”

David Straz’s campaign returned some of the tickets it scooped up for the April 11 mayoral forum on Bay News 9.

The campaign nabbed almost all of the available tickets after Florida Politics reported they were available through an Eventbrite post online.

Within just a few hours, tickets became unavailable after most were claimed by just one email address. The Straz campaign confirmed it had accessed the tickets.

“When tickets were available a staffer went online and signed up for a large amount of tickets to give to our strong support base interested in attending the debate,” said campaign spokesperson Jarrod Holbrook. “Once this was brought to our attention, we began working with Bay News 9, and we offered to return the tickets.”

He said there were no restrictions or rules in place to prevent someone from claiming a large number of tickets.

Straz is participating in just three campaign forums, including the Bay News 9 televised event. Straz said during a news conference last week that he was limiting the number of panels he would attend because he wanted to focus his time on campaigning. He also argued voters were fatigued from the dozens of forums before the March 5 election.

But critics question whether Straz is avoiding public events with Castor for fear that his performance might not look up to par next to his opponent, Jane Castor.

Denying that, Straz said he was encouraged by a recent poll which put Castor more than 30 points ahead in the race.

After being called out by the Castor campaign for monopolizing tickets, the Straz campaign agreed to return some of the tickets in a compromise in which the Straz and Castor campaigns will each get 400 tickets to distribute to supporters with another 200 available through the public from Bay News 9.

“It’s too bad that Mr. Straz wanted to hijack and stack the audience for one of the very few public forums he was willing to participate in,” said Castor campaign manager Tim Wagner.

The Straz campaign is providing its tickets to supporters through an online form that offers up to three tickets and a free campaign T-shirt when supporters provide their name, phone number and email address.

The Bay News 9 debate will be hosted live at the Tampa Theater in downtown from 6-8 p.m. and broadcast on Spectrum’s Bay News 9 for subscribers.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com 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 die-hard 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 contentious issues surrounding transit. 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 a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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