A St. Petersburg mayoral candidate in Florida said this week that African-American supporters of his rival should “go back to Africa” if they don’t like it in the U.S.
An attendee at a Tuesday forum asked candidates Paul Congemi and Jesse Nevel what the town could do to offer more opportunities to young people.
In response to the question, Congemi launched a tirade against African-American supporters of Nevel, who is white.
“Mr. Nevel, you and your people, you talk about reparations,” Congemi said to Nevel. “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.”
“Get out of here!” someone can be heard yelling at Congemi.
“My advice to you, if you don’t like it here in America, planes leave every hour from Tampa airport,” the candidate continued directing his comments to Nevel’s supporters. “Go back to Africa! Go back to Africa! Go back!”
Some in the audience laughed ― seemingly at the absurdity of his statement ― while others loudly booed.
“Yes: I did tell those people to go back to Africa,” Congemi later said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times. “My remark was meant for the group Mr. Nevel represents. Not all African-Americans. Just those that Nevel represents.”
In response to the incident, Nevel referred to Congemi, who is now on his third mayoral run, as a “non-factor” in the race, the Tampa Bay Times reported.
Both Nevel and Congemi will compete with several other candidates in an upcoming August primary. If no one wins a majority of the votes in that race, a runoff for the top two candidates will be held Nov. 7
In his 2009 run for mayor, Congemi was sidelined following an incident where police banned him from a KFC after he started yelling expletives at staff over an eight-piece chicken meal.
Language in this story has been amended to clarify the terms of the upcoming runoff election.