Sloan Bashinsky introduced himself at the first Key West mayoral debate by first taking a call from a higher authority.
“Hello? What? God?” Bashinsky said into his cellphone.
After a few words about the city wanting to cut nonprofit funding — “Have they lost their minds? Yeah, I think they have” — he introduced himself as someone who talks about what others won’t.
Bashinsky has a law degree from Vanderbilt and used to be among the Key West homeless. He also has run before.
“I have said every time I ran, I ran because God told me to run,” he said. “This is known to everybody. I think anyone who wants this job is insane.”
Ahh, Key West politics, where things can quickly turn weird. This is, after all, the town where “Captain” Tony Tarracino ran for mayor. Like Bashinsky, the salty barkeep and ship captain was one of those perennial candidates, too.
Until he won.
Tarracino was known for saying this during campaigns: “All you need in this life is a tremendous sex drive and a great ego. Brains don’t mean [expletive].”
At a candidate forum Monday night at The Studios of Key West, 533 Eaton St., candidates for city commissioner and mayor talked about the island’s losing struggle to provide affordable housing to workers and about providing a new shelter for the homeless.
But through the evening, the colorful character shined through.
“I live in the house I grew up in,” said Wally Moore, who is running for City Commission District 5, when asked if times had changed in Key West. “When I was a kid, my mailman walked inside our house, had his own glass in the cupboard and poured himself a glass of water and yelled at my mom in Spanish.”
“I would say I’m a well-educated bartender just like most of us are here in this town,” said Jenn Stefanacci Doll, who is running for City Commission District 4 against attorney Gregory Davila.
For years, Stefanacci Doll has been known for tending bar wearing pasties and a tutu. But lately she has turned to management at a Duval Street watering hole. “Support your local bartender,” her campaign T-shirts say.
The two clashed on raising height limits and changing density rules in order to build affordable housing.
“No,” Davila said.
Stefanacci Doll said it depends on the project. “We have to look at all aspects,” she said.
The loudest cheers of the night came after panelist John Dolan-Heitlinger asked mayoral candidate Teri Johnston whether the city could waste tax dollars on climate change, which he suggested wasn’t a real threat.
“We’re not going to spend any unnecessary money because it is a problem,” Johnston replied, to applause.
The mayoral candidates:
Sloan Bashinsky, Randy Becker, George Bellenger, Bill Foley, Teri Johnston, Carie Noda and Margaret Romero