There were only supposed to be two candidates facing off head-to-head at the annual Lutz Guv’na debate at the Old Lutz School on May 14.
That was until a mystery candidate was revealed prior to the debate: Donald Trump. Or, more accurately, someone dressed in a suit sporting a latex mask in the likeness of the Republican presidential candidate.
The entertainment had just begun, as actual Guv’na hopefuls Greg Gilbert and Andre Pamplona answered mostly tongue-in-cheek questions from dozens of Lutz residents, and family members, in the crowd.
They also squared off in a makeshift bowling competition, plus costume and watermelon-eating contests.
In between the fun-filled activities was emcee Paul Vahue of First Baptist Church in Lutz, steering the event along, all while providing several jokes and one-liners to those gathered at the Old Lutz School.
The day’s silliness was done in an effort for both Gilbert and Pamplona to drum up as much support as they could, hoping to raise as much money as possible for their “campaigns,” which ultimately go to benefitting several nonprofits and local organizations.
Those in attendance quickly discovered where each candidate’s “political” obligations stand: their Lutz businesses — Beef O’ Brady’s and Royal Bowling Lanes, respectively.
Gilbert’s slogan was “Beef it up at Brady’s,” while Pamplona’s was “Raising the education of bowling.”
Most of the adulation and amusement came during the question-and-answer format of the debate, where each candidate (and Trump) made countless exorbitant promises and guarantees.
One hot-button issue was how the candidates would prevent unwanted migrants, especially snowbirds, from coming into Lutz.
Gilbert’s solution was to have “all Canadians stopped in Land O’ Lakes.” Pamplona, on the other hand, had a more grandiose idea.
“I will build a huge wall of bowling pins around Lutz,” he said with as much seriousness as the Guv’na hopeful could muster.
Roaring laughter ensued.
The debate didn’t stop there.
The candidates disputed: Who should appear on the nickel: Homer Simpson versus Hillary Clinton. How to spend Lutz citizens’ money wisely: Beef O’ Brady’s versus Royal Bowling Lanes.
But, they agreed on one thing: How to appeal to women voters — with their good looks.
Another key, and laughter-filled, moment came when the candidates were asked, “What song best describes your work ethic?”
Gilbert answered swiftly, “It’s 5 O’ Clock Somewhere,” naming the popular tune by Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett.
Pamplona opted to sing — or to attempt to sing — the lyrics to the hit Rihanna song, “Work,” perhaps appealing to the younger “voters.”
The candidates’ performances throughout the afternoon festivities did enough to even impress two former Guv’nas.
“I think they did a fantastic job on their answers,” said Suzin Carr, the only two-time Guv’na. “We’ve got 2 ½ candidates that were really putting themselves out there for the community.”
“They did great,” said Jennifer Rankin, outgoing Guv’na who raised more than $9,200 throughout her 2015 race. “They did very well. I wanted to be up there.”
The annual Guv’na Race fundraiser continues through the Fourth of July weekend, where the winner is announced, and earns the coveted “sash” from Rankin, the prior year’s winner.
The race, which started in 1991, is sponsored by the Lutz Civic Association. It typically raises several thousand dollars for about 20 beneficiaries.
Dignitaries at Saturday’s event included volunteers from Steinbrenner High School, the GFWC Lutz-Land O’ Lakes Woman’s Club, the GFWC Little Women of Lutz, representatives from the Old Lutz School and the Lutz Civic Association.
Published May 18, 2016