A mayoral race in St. Petersburg, Fla., took quite an interesting turn Tuesday when one of the candidates, Paul Congemi, snapped at another mayoral candidate and his supporters, telling them to “Go back to Africa” and saying that reparations came in the form of Barack Obama.
You can’t make this stuff up.
According to Fox 13 News, Congemi took offense after an assertion was made that he was a “nonfactor” in the race. That was when he lashed out at Jesse Nevel, another mayoral candidate, who is supported by members of the Uhuru Movement, which believes that reparations can begin to mend racial inequality. Nevel’s campaign slogan is “Unity through reparations.”
“Mr. Nevel, you and your people talk about reparations. The reparations that you talk about, Mr. Nevel, your people already got your reparations. Your reparations came in the form of a man named Barack Obama,” Congemi responded, pointing a figure at the audience as he spoke. “My advice to you, if you don’t like it here in America, planes leave every hour from Tampa airport. Go back to Africa. Go back to Africa. Go back!”
After the Tuesday-night remarks, Rick Kriseman, the current mayor of St. Petersburg, released a statement, denouncing Congemi’s comments:
I was reluctant to engage this candidate last night and draw even more attention to his disturbing message. I regret not doing so, though. It is simply unacceptable to spew this kind of bigoted rhetoric. Free speech should not compromise the dignity and respect of any person or community. This candidate spoke hateful words about African Americans and our LGBT community. He has the right to do so, but nothing about what he said is right. His comments just aren’t who we are.
Congemi later told the Washington Post that he was not talking about wanting all black people to go back to Africa, just the specific group of people who have been pushing to make reparations a political issue, and those who, he claimed, heckled at him at the forum.
Congemy told the Post that Nevel—who is white—and the Uhuru Movement lack real solutions and are “unhappy about the whole system in America.”
On the other hand, he said, he has “nothing against African Americans who are doing their best here in America.”
“I had never met Jesse Nevel until last night,” Congemi told the Post on Wednesday. “It’s obvious he is a self-hating white man.”
Ah, just keep digging that hole deeper, Congemi.
At any rate, Nevel acknowledged, naturally, that he is a white man, but told the Post that he sees the paying of reparations as a way to resolve other race-based disparities, which may become the stepping-stones to healing other class and social issues.
Congemi’s comment, Nevel said, “reflects a segment of my community. I’ve met plenty of other people who feel that way. That’s why I feel that it’s important for those of us in the white community to take a public stand with reparations.”
Interestingly enough, Congemi told the Post that he was a lifelong Democrat who switched his party after then-President Barack Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage. Congemi is now a proud Republican and Donald Trump supporter.
Despite the rumblings over Congemi’s actions and his stances, Congemi insisted that he is not going anywhere. And, apparently, we should take his word for it.
The Post notes that back in January, Congemi was charged with felony elder abuse after his 87-year-old mother, who lived with him, had to be treated in intensive care for bed sores so severe that doctors could see the bone.
Those charges were ultimately dropped, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Congemi claimed that his mother had only been without home health care for about a day and a half as he switched providers. Even in the middle of the fallout, after posting a $10,000 bail, Congemi told reporters that he would keep on with his political aspirations.
“I want the people of St. Petersburg to know that I’m not dropping out,” Congemi said at the time, the Post notes.
His modus operandi will apparently remain the same this time around, despite criticisms and backlash over his comments at the forum. And even if he loses, he says he won’t stop.
“I’ll run again in 2019 and, God willing, if I’m alive in 2021, I’ll run then, too,” he told the Post. “I intend to keep running and running and running.”