As we leave one of the most hostile local elections behind in Leon County, I have this bitter-sweet feeling about the results and our future as a community. Before I lay out my personal thoughts about it all, let’s dive into the results. In the beginning of this cycle, our Political Action Committee (PAC) endorsed 6 candidates: 5 of those won the election and 1 lost to an incumbent. Compared to the 2020 Election Cycle, (2 winners and 2 losses), we have made significant progress - all thanks to friends, family, colleagues and donors who supported our mission and vision for Tallahassee.
Congratulations to Commissioners Dianne Williams-Cox (52.2% - City Commission Seat 5) and Bill Proctor (57.8% - County Commission District 1) for getting more than 50% of the vote and winning the elections out-right in the primaries.
After entering in a runoff with their opponents, Mayor John Dailey, Commissioner Nick Maddox (County Commission, At-Large) and Christian Caban (County Commission, District 2) all won their races with 53% of the votes. We wish them good luck in the days ahead. A big shout out goes to Dr. David Bellamy, our only endorsement who did not cross the finish line, for putting his heart and soul into his campaign. It takes courage to put up a fight against an incumbent with an established name.
Congrats to Jeremy Matlow, who received 55.8% of the votes against Dr. Bellamy and secured another 4 years in the City Commission Seat 5 during primaries. Quite a lot of folks are hoping to see a new Jeremy Matlow, who chooses to unite our community, is open to different ideas and maintains good relationships with his colleagues for the benefit of our city. Our PAC did not endorse any candidate in the County Commission District 3 and District 5 races. However, we want to congratulate Rick Minor (56.2%) for winning his race for District 3 outright in the primary, and David O’Keefe (54%) for crossing the finish line in the general elections for District 5.
Since kicking off our 2022 fundraising efforts on June 29th, our PAC raised roughly $290,000 through 76 donations coming from Tallahassee business owners, professionals, and residents with diverse backgrounds. We used the funds to support our candidates across multi-media channels including TV, radio and digital ads, as well as through postcard mailers, text messaging campaigns and event sponsorships.
Since day one, we have been transparent with our finances and intentions: we want a growing local economy that is not stifled by a decades-old, stagnant, political culture. I’m proud to announce that this has been the most successful election cycle yet in our long journey. We thank each and every one of our donors. Our success would not have been possible without their support.
disinformation / noun: false information deliberately and often covertly spread (as by the planting of rumors) in order to influence public opinion or obscure the truth.
In this cycle, our PAC became a target of malicious smear campaigns. Some were initiated by disinformation websites (Our Tallahassee and Florida Squeeze), and radical twitter trolls. Others were, unfortunately, spread by sitting commissioners. It has gotten ugly and disorienting to a point where our attorney had to start sending cease and desist letters.
The same group tried to pin ugly accusations on the candidates as well. For example: Lifelong democrat and women’s rights advocate, Dianne Williams-Cox, was suddenly anti-women. That didn’t stick. So, they switched it to Commissioner Williams-Cox being against $15/hr for city employees. In reality, it was Dianne Williams-Cox who proposed the initiative.
In the same fashion, Mayor John Dailey, according to these trolls, woke up one day and decided to sell our public utilities. Once they realized this narrative didn’t work, they produced exposé-style videos of women (one of them being a sitting commissioner, Jack Porter) accusing the mayor for being misogynistic. Conveniently, all these ladies decided to tell their stories 10 days before the elections. Then, finally, they sent out a postcard claiming that Mayor John Dailey reduced the police budget - an entirely baseless claim. The Florida Police Benevolent Association quickly refuted that claim. Here is the bottom line: Kristin Dozier, who aligned her campaign with these groups, lost.
Adner Marcelin, who was recruited by these groups, lost.
Josh Johnson, being part of the same group, lost.
The General Electorate saw through these disinformation campaigns and voted against them. In all reality, these tactics insult the intelligence of educated voters, in addition to taking the focus away from the real issues. Our PAC will continue to stand up and dismantle these attempts in the upcoming election cycles.
Local Political Coverage
This season, unfortunately, we saw clear attempts to conceal information from the public, or push narratives that would fuel disinformation campaigns. For example, political reporter Karl Etters repeatedly wrote articles about how many $1,000 donations each candidate received. It is a fair article except that it does not list the donors who contributed a total of $1,000 by splitting their donations through multiple checks. In this particular case, donors like Bob Rackleff, Ann & Jeff Vandermeer, Howard Kessler, and many more donated $1,000 (through multiple payments) to candidates like Kristin Dozier, Jeremy Matlow and Adner Marcelin, but somehow did not make it to Karl Etters’ list. Another example would be Jeff Burlew not disclosing a California-based group’s contribution to certain local candidates, particularly for Jeremy Matlow in 2018, Jack Porter in 2020 and Adner Marcelin in 2022 (totaling around $200,000 in contributions) until Tallahassee Reports wrote an article about it. In addition, we have seen multiple attempts to characterize our organization as an exclusively “developer-backed” group. This is problematic for multiple reasons. First, our donors consist of individuals with very diverse backgrounds, which makes the characterization attempt misleading. More importantly, the use of this type of false narrative leads to increased polarization. Villainizing business owners who serve vital functions within our community diverts attention away from important issues and hinders honest dialogue.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Our community can only benefit from new voices entering the conversation and presenting different perspectives on issues. Grow Tallahassee’s members, supporters and donors have the best intentions in mind for our future. We have businesses, careers, families and friends in Tallahassee. Therefore, it is time for us to overcome preconceived notions about each another, address the issues and move forward as a community.
As we wrap up the PAC business for this cycle, I would like to remind you that our advocacy group will continue to host monthly events, focusing on issues that impact our city. Please stop by and join the conversation. Bugra Demirel