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