The afternoon was hot and sizzling — and so was the 2018 Lutz Guv’na Debate at the Old Lutz School.
So much so that the May 19 event ended in a tie, a first in the debate’s long history.
Kandy Sinquefield of American BellyDance Studio and returning candidate Jessica Sherman of Pinch A Penny each earned the same number of “votes” (most guests in the audience)— earning a split of a $100 campaign donation from Flip Flop Embroidery Shoppe.
A third candidate, Domenic DiFante of Panini’s Bar & Grill, couldn’t make the debate. He was instead represented by one of his employees, Alex Robertson, who diplomatically threw his full support behind his absent boss.
Said Robertson, “He’s a great man, and I think he will give the community a great service by being your next Guv’na.”
The annual affair isn’t your typical “political” debate.
The candidates were required to ring a bell before answering a series of satirical questions from a few dozen Lutz residents and family members in the crowd.
Other games and fun activities were mixed in throughout the fun-filled afternoon, which was emceed by Paul Vahue of First Baptist Church in Lutz.
Among the most intense “hot button” debate questions: “Are you a liberal or conservative when it comes to pizza toppings, and should there be punishment for ordering pineapple on pizza?”
Sherman advocated for “pizza freedom.”
Sinquefield supported the right to choose any pizza topping, but added, “just don’t ask me to clean up for you when you get sick from eating it.”
Robertson, on behalf of DiFante, took a more hardline approach to the pizza topping issue.
“There’s just a few things in life that just don’t go together,” he said, “and pineapple on pizza is one of them.”
Another “controversial” topic dear to Lutz residents was also broached: “Should Lutz secede from the state of Florida?”
In true political fashion, Robertson avoided the topic entirely, redirecting the conversation to Difante’s “tax plan” and campaign promise of “chicken wings, overstuffed sandwiches and cold beer at every corner of the city.”
To quell other “voters” concerns, Sherman and Sinquefield both said the unincorporated town should remain a part of the Sunshine State.
Said Sherman, “I think Lutz is just fine the way it is. If I win Guv’na, I’m not going to do anything. Everything’s just fine.”
Added Sinquefield: “I don’t think Lutz should secede from the union. If people don’t like what we do in Lutz, then they need to move to Carrollwood…”
Another Lutz-centric debate question that drew wonderment from many — “Which object should be dropped in Lutz on New Year’s Eve?”
Sinquefield mentioned a rhinestone-covered replica of the Lutz Train Depot.
Sherman liked the idea of dropping a giant alligator.
Robertson— trying to appeal to the crowd’s appetites — proposed unloading a 75-foot tall, 1,500-pound “overstuffed” sandwich — a Panini’s staple. “Everybody bring a fork,” he quipped.
In between the many colorful debate questions were a series of “Olympic-type” activities.
Except, they were just slightly different from the real thing.
The “curling” competition required the trio to use a curling iron on a synthetic wig — concocting the best hairstyle possible. Sinquefield reigned supreme in that.
Meantime, the makeshift synchronized swimming event required candidates to shake and wave swim noodles attached to tennis shoes, to mimic the symbiotic motion of legs and feet behind the veil of a blue tarp that served as water.
The routines drew more cackles than points for grace, but each earned a participation prize.
Guv’na candidates also used the debate platform to show off their special talents.
Sherman displayed the same “epic dance moves” from last year, comically resembling those popularized by “Seinfeld” TV series character Elaine Benes, portrayed by Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
Sinquefield, unsurprisingly, shared a belly dance routine.
Robertson conceded the talent show entirely, bowing to Sinquefield’s performance. “There’s nothing I can do that can follow that,” he said modestly.
At the end of the debate, each candidate revealed their official campaign slogan.
Sherman stayed true to last year’s “Keep Lutz Local” slogan.
She explained: “Lutz is a very special community. Ninety percent of our business owners are local, Lutz owned and operated businesses, and it’s super important we keep that family vibe that we don’t have in a lot of places, like Carrollwood.”
Sinquefield’s slogan was more brash: “I don’t want your vote—I want your money!” she said.
Difante’s slogan was “Let’s get overstuffed!”
The meaning was explained in a statement read by Robertson: “I’ve mastered the overstuffed sandwich. Now I want to overstuff your wallets, bank accounts and bellies!”
The whimsical debate was all done in an effort for candidates 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 in Lutz.
The annual Guv’na Race fundraiser continues through the Fourth of July weekend, where the winner is announced, and earns the coveted “sash” and honorary title from the prior year’s winner.
The race started in 1991 and is sponsored by the Lutz Civic Association.
It typically raises several thousand dollars for about 20 beneficiaries.
Dignitaries at the event included a handful of former Guv’na winners and candidates, the GFWC Lutz-Land O’ Lakes Woman’s Club, and representatives from the Old Lutz School and the Lutz Civic Association, among others.
Lutz Guv’na candidate upcoming fundraisers
Candidate Domenic DiFante
- Kill the Keg: May 31 from 11 p.m. to 2:30 a.m., at Panini’s Bar and Grill, 3973 Van Dyke Road in Lutz. There will be music and karaoke, corn hole, jumbo Jenga, jumbo Connect Four, beer pong and more. Wristbands for “Kill the Keg” are $15. For information, call (813) 962-3479.
Candidate Jessica Sherman
- Spaghetti dinner and silent auction: June 9 from 5 to 7 p.m., at Crystal Lake Manor Pavilion, 502 Crystal Grove Blvd., Lutz. Adult tickets are $7; child tickets are $4. Please RSVP by email to .
Candidate Kandy Sinquefield
- BellyDance 4 A Cause: June 10 at 2 p.m., at the Sydney Center, 102 Whitaker Road, Lutz. A belly dance show to benefit the Lutz Guv’na race that will feature many styles of belly dance, colorful costumes and uplifting music. Tickets are $15 and available at Kandy4LutzGovna.com or at the door, if available. For information, visit Kandy4LutzGovna.com.
- Barbecue and Belly Dancing: June 17 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., at UNION72 Barbecue, 2000 Piazza Ave., Suite 150, in Wesley Chapel. Bring the whole family out to eat at UNION72 and help support Kandy. A portion of the bill will be donated to the Guv’na’s race by the restaurant. For information, visit Kandy4LutzGovna.com.
- Miss Lutz Pageant: June 23 at 7 p.m., at the Sydney Center, 102 Whitaker Road, Lutz. Contestants are still needed to show off their talent and an evening gown. Participants must be older than age 18, live in Lutz and be available for the Lutz 4th of July Parade. Tickets are $15. For information, visit Kandy4LutzGovna.com.
Published May 30, 2018