The old line about going to a fight and a hockey game breaking out seemed all too apropos the other day. In this case, amid the shrill display of a high-powered, political assault weapon, a decorous candidate forum kept threatening to break out.
It was the Tampa Bay Tiger Bay Club gathering for county commission candidates representing Districts 4 and 5. Also known this day as the Ronda Storms Show. No wonder Stacey Easterling was a no-show. When the whole world is a stage, no one wants to be a floorboard upon which this actor treads. Storms, the poster pol for the dysfunctional body that is the Board of County Commissioners, is that perversely transcendent.
The Storms Trooper caricature as the brashly insulting, avenging angel of Southeast Hillsborough County precedes her. And she lives down to it.
She attacked her opponent, Arlene Waldron, from the get-go, launching right from her opening remarks. No perfunctory thank you’s to the forum sponsor or the attendees. Just ready, fire, aim; much of it personal.
But here’s what’s most disconcerting. Because of her pugnacious personality, cheeky body language and insensitive soundbites on issues, Storms becomes the issue. Arguably, to the detriment of the “issue.”
She acknowledged as much.
“I know that happens,” she said afterwards, “but I can’t help it. I’m not desperate to be popular. I don’t know how to be different. Then I would come across as a fake.”
Like it or not, Storms represents a legitimate point of view, inflammatory, off-putting rhetoric notwithstanding. She’s not the only one, for example, who saw through the FAMU Law School charade. Nor the only one who thinks sophomorically sleazy programming isn’t proper fare for public access television. And she induced a put-up-or-shut-up response out of those soapboxing about building moratoriums.
She’s not liked — let alone endorsed — by mainstream newspapers, watchdog organizations or the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. And she clearly doesn’t care. But she does represent a bona fide constituency. Sure, she panders to it, but that’s hardly a novel concept.
“I have been the woman I have promised my constituents I would be,” she’s prone — and proud — to say. Often.
Ironically, she’s one politician who keeps her word.