Welcome to Tallahassee: November Local Elections Voter Guide

Our picks: Josh Johnson, Kristin Dozier, David O’Keefe

Amendments and Judges

–We are voting no on all the amendments this year, for reasons articulated on Anna Eskamani’s 2002 Ballot Guidance page.

–Many of the judges you can vote on are extremists appointed by the governor. We voted yes on supreme court judge Labarga, but no otherwise. This instagram slideshow has more information on all the district judges, district by district.

Local Candidate Recommendation Cheat Sheet:

Mayor: Kristen Dozier

County Commission: Josh Johnson (at-large Group 2), David O’Keefe (District 5), No Vote (District 2)

School Board:  Alex Stemle (District 4)

It is worth noting that the extremist developer group Grow Tallahassee has teamed up this election cycle with an ever-more extremist Tallahassee Reports to support their slate of candidates. This has included Mayor Dailey appearing on extremist talk radio to defend his treatment of women, which also underscores that he is not the best LGBTQ candidate as Tallahassee Reports regularly posts anti-LGBTQ hate.

General Analysis

After the resounding reelection of reformer Jeremy Matlow to the Tallahassee city commission in the August primaries, the November general election promises to add gains to local government in areas like accountability, transparency, and, well, just good, balanced policy decisions. For that to happen, the old guard needs to be repudiated at the polls—and in the process weaken and in some cases break the webs of special interest that unfortunately have had undue influence over this city for too long. Specifically, this means voting Mayor Dailey out of office, along with Nick Maddox at the county commissioner level.

As we noted in our August voter’s guide, regardless of how you feel about issues like no-bid sales of public land, the pathological way our mayor has gone out of his way to avoid instituting true ethics reforms, and similar issues, we feel it’s important to have special interests as far removed from decisions affecting communities as possible. Similarly, we think that good governance and responsible management of our abundant natural resources requires elected officials with as few conflicts of interest as possible.

With all of that in mind, here are our final picks in the local Tallahassee/Leon County elections, with our opinion on one stinker of race outside of our district also given. At the state level, there are no Republicans running for office who have shown the ability to jettison politics for good policy and commonsense, so we recommend voting for the Democratic candidates all the way down the slate. – Ann and Jeff VanderMeer

School Board—A Pivotal Race

In District 4, Laurie Lawson Cox is a rightwing extremist who would do immeasurable harm to many of the students she purports to want to help—do not vote for her. We’re voting for Alex Stemle as the best choice for the board: someone who is knowledgeable, reasonable, and for good policy. And, unlike Cox, Stemle has stated he has confidence in the outcome of the 2020 elections.

Tallahassee Mayor—Vote for Kristin Dozier

Kristin Dozier has served ably and well as a county commissioner. She has a vast amount of experience in addition to being a policy wonk. Dozier would restore a sense of balance to city politics and work toward greater accountability. Dozier would also bring back true civility to city government, which would allow for meaningful compromises. On the campaign trail, Dozier has shown an ability to gracefully but firmly rebuke Mayor Dailey for his negative campaigning, which also augers well for her mayorship.

Incumbent John Dailey has actively re-upped on the methods and outlook embodied by disgraced former mayor Scott Maddox while demonstrating an uncanny knack for finding photo ops; he often takes credit for the labor and ideas of others. Dailey has nurtured a lack of transparency in city government and given the city manager carte blanche to consolidate power in ways harmful to representative democracy—and even shut down meetings to avoid talking about real ethics reform. There are also questions of conflict of interest in his wife having Florida Power & Light as a client while Dailey takes meetings with Florida Power & Light (for reasons that have not been divulged)—this twitter thread details a serious threat from FPL to our community, encouraged by Dailey. Several accounts of bullying businesswomen in the community should be taken seriously. There’s a reason Ruth’s List has pointedly endorsed his opponent. Read also why “John Dailey is a disaster.”

County Commission Races—Vote for Josh Johnson and David O’Keefe

Josh Johnson, At Large Group 2. Johnson pushes for sensible and community-oriented policies while opposing boondoggles like the millions of dollars in tax-payer money given to FSU for their stadium. Not only has Johnson run a smart campaign and put in the hard work going door-to-door to talk to voters, his background as an educator and his clarity about Tallahassee issues make him far and away the best candidate. He has deep ties to the community that he honors in both his conduct and his vision for the future.

Unfortunately, the incumbent, Nick Maddox, is backed by special interests and dismissed a sexual harassment charge against him in a debate as “a personal issue.” This occurred at the Boys and Girls Club while he was serving there and he was dismissed from his service because of it–then lied about the reason in a recent debate. There are legitimate questions about Maddox’s character and his judgment—with alleged complaints about his behavior from several women.

David O’Keefe, District 5. O’Keefe has a strong grasp of the issues, a strong fiscal responsibility background, and has been on point re the waste of taxpayer money on the FSU stadium. O’Keefe would be a sensible, policy-oriented voice on the county commission and we believe he would work well with other commissioners as well.

O’Keefe’s opponent, Paula Deboles-Johnson, has expressed support for Republican Governor Ron DeSantis on the grounds he’s been good for business. However, this stance really ignores the plight of workers trying to find affordable housing, the environmental cost, the healthcare costs of his indifference to Covid and a ton of other issues related to that support. She also, as a county employee, seems too wedded to supporting county staff decisions–that’s not what we need in a commissioner right now. We need checks and balances on unelected influencers across the board. That’s really supposed to be part of the job of a commissioner.

No Vote, District 2 Our “no vote” is symbolic as we are not in District 2, but having two rightwing extremists vie for the county commission seat means we cannot recommend either candidate. That one, Christian Caban, is running as a Democrat doesn’t make the situation better: Why in any way support a cuckoo laying its egg in another bird’s nest? That the Leon County Democratic Party has gotten behind Caban demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the situation. Rumors that Caban offered to pay for the LCDP’s voter’s guide and/or similar mailers just pours rancid milk into what’s already weak tea.

The Republican, Hannah Crow, is an extremist backed by the political hack Skip Foster who runs Hammerhead Communications and is behind the extremist political site 4TLH. He’s also a climate change denier who tried to get a homeless shelter closed using faked community comments and his mentorship of Crow and her unwillingness to step down from Hammerhead Communications if elected just underscore the ethical rot.

The “Democrat,” Christian Caban, is Grow Tallahassee’s selection and also supported by the Chamber of Commerce. His close relationship with developer Bugra Demeril, whose rants are documented here, is of special concern—as are his ties to other developers. Caban has bought his way into the conversation with no political experience and has switched political parties from Republican to Democrat seemingly for the cynical purpose of having a chance in this election. It’s incredibly foolish for former candidate and local environmentalist Max Epstein to have enthusiastically endorsed Caban while citing Crow’s rightwing extremism, given Caban’s support for anti-LGBTQ candidates. Caban’s given no proof that he’s going to be any better than Crow on environmental issues; simply being able to display knowledge of such issues is no indicator of how he will vote as a commissioner. You can expect he will endorse most all development put forward by Demirel, the Chamber, or Grow Tallahassee. (Max Epstein also put us in the position of having to make this choice with his ill-considered run, splitting the center and left vote.)

One comment on “Welcome to Tallahassee: November Local Elections Voter Guide

  1. John B Outland says:

    Would not vote for Dozier as she was there when the County approved the Fallschase development.

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