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Madame Mayor? Kristin Dozier Files Against John Dailey

Kristin Dozier is likely to announce a run for Mayor. A look at Dailey's first three years and the state of the race.

// February 18, 2022,

10:42 am

Updated:March 3, 2022

OPINION

In case you haven’t noticed, Our Tallahassee is not the New York Times. We aren’t a neutral party and if you’re looking for an impartial opinion, you’re not going to find it here. We are not journalism, we have a progressive perspective that informs our coverage. Our perspective is something that we’ve leaned into since we launched Our Tallahassee. We don’t take money from firms, lobbyists or companies looking to do business before local government. 

Our publisher Bob Lotane is a former candidate for public office in 2018 against Dianne Williams-Cox. Lotane is also a major donor to local progressive campaigns. Co-author Max Herrle consults with candidates for local political office and formerly worked on issue advocacy through the City of Tallahassee and Leon County Government

We’re political people by nature. In the upcoming election cycle, we’re going to write about campaigns, we’re going to contribute to campaigns, and we’re going to tell you what we think about the people, power, and politics that control our community’s future.  Read this article and Our Tallahassee accordingly.

All Signs Point towards leon county commissioner Kristin dozier running for mayor

All signs point towards Leon County Commissioner Kristin Dozier running for Mayor.

This week, a source received a political poll asking various questions assessing Kristin’s viability which went through different message and issue questions related to City of Tallahassee issues and asked direct head-to-head questions about Dozier running. Whitfield “Hubba Bubba” Leland is also running against Dailey, the only candidate currently filed. Leland has been speaking out against the Mayor at recent city commission meetings, criticizing him on several issues, including the CRA, Blueprint, and advocating for oversight on the distribution of public funds. 

If Dozier enters the race against Dailey, the race will immediately dominate the election season’s attention, money, and politics. No Tallahassee Mayor has ever been challenged by a colleague on the City or County Commission.

Dailey’s first term has been a tumultuous one by most political observers. 

Just this week, the Leon County Democratic Party called on Dailey publicly to return $23,050 in donations that his reelection campaign accepted from leaders at the Seminole Boosters and Florida State University, just weeks before Dailey will be voting on giving that same organization $27 million dollars to subsidize a luxury stadium seating project for Doak Campbell Stadium. Dailey spoke to the media on Wednesday about the Seminole Boosters’ contributions. Dailey does not plan to return the money. Dailey claimed it would be “voter suppression” to not accept the contributions.

On Thursday night, Tallahassee’s local television news station WCTV ran a stinging report of Dailey’s response to the media following the Booster’s story. WCTV’s Monica Casey analyzed several of Dailey’s claims at his media appearance at City Hall, which demonstrated that his claim that his colleagues receive checks from FSU leadership was not true. 

That same evening, Tallahassee’s other major television broadcast station, WTXL ABC-27 explored Dailey’s other claim that criticisms of his acceptance of Seminole Booster money was a form of “voter suppression.”

In response to claims of “voter suppression”, Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor sent a letter to Dailey on Thursday night demanding that he apologize for his voter suppression comparison. WTXL tried to interview the Mayor for their Thursday night story, but the Mayor did not respond to comments. 

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The Seminole Booster’s deal has only gotten worse politically since it was introduced in April 2021, in conjunction with the University’s roll-out of the one hundred million dollar stadium “fan experience” improvement project. Organizations across the political spectrum, from the Tallahassee NAACP, the Leon County Democratic Party, and the James Madison Institute, and Americans for Prosperity have opposed the deal. The James Madison Institute called it “a political outcome, orchestrated by a political body,” in arguing that the deal was a “loser” and not based on “market-oriented evaluations of costs, benefits, opportunity costs, and competitive forces.”

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Dailey and his political surrogacy have privately lamented to confidantes that they are bewildered  at  his unpopularity 

Dailey’s first three years in office have lacked any clear policy direction and have been primarily defined by his ongoing political feuds with his colleagues. The bitterness espoused by Dailey has largely been directed at City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow and City Commissioner Jack Porter, who he recently refused to allow to speak at a City Commission meeting. Dailey later issued an apology, which our outlet criticized as less than sincere.

 

A Dozier candidacy would surely elevate the policy conversations of the City government that we are accustomed to in local political campaigns. Dailey’s most daunting challenge with Dozier is that she would not fit conveniently into the narrative that Dailey has tried to weave over the past few years in explaining the dysfunction of Dailey’s City Hall. Multiple accounts have told Our Tallahassee that Dailey and his political surrogacy have privately lamented to confidantes that they are bewildered at his unpopularity. One source says that Dailey’s team narrowed in on Dailey’s lack of support among Democrats, which is an outcome that they internally blame on the progressive minority of elected officials in local government — not Dailey’s demeanor or comportment in office.

Dozier has a reputation as a policy-backed decision-maker, even frustratingly so at times to supporters. She is infamously unwavering in her view that policy outcomes outweigh politics, whether from the progressive or establishment wings. On the other hand, Dailey has spent the last three years locked in a bitter political deathmatch with his colleague commissioners. Dailey regularly votes down suggestions by Matlow and Porter, frequently inexplicably. 

Thus the coming campaign between them would find enormous contrast between Dailey and Dozier’s approach to the policy-making process.

Meanwhile, the forces that Dailey will rely on — traditional establishment donors and business owners — are weaker than they have ever been.

The Democrat recently described Dailey as the “chief foil” to Matlow at the local level, but Dailey’s friends and political allies have been on a losing streak lately. For example, Dailey was close enough to former Leon County Commissioner Bryan Desloge that the two families owned beach houses across the street from one another. But in the 2020 general election, Brian Welch defeated Desloge in a crushing 13-point rout by the establishment in Leon County’s most conservative commission district that the Democrat called “the biggest local shocker of election night.”

Former City Commissioner Elaine Bryant was Dailey’s pick for the vacancy appointment of Scott Maddox, who lost to City Commissioner Jack Porter in the 2020 Primary. 

Porter ran a precedent-setting campaign which led to an 11-percentage-point win over an establishment-backed incumbent to the City Commission that prevented a general election, and sent Porter to the City Commission, who ran with the help of hundreds all across our community. The Democrat, writing about the race in the days after  the election, emphasized the significance of the race in local politics, saying that the defeat of another establishment-backed candidate in local government “was seen in political circles as a watershed moment.”

Dailey, the de-facto political leader of the establishment majority,  may be headed into an intense political battle for his own seat. If that happens, Chamber-backed candidates in city and county commission races are mainly going to be left fending for themselves. The Mayor’s race will take up much of the oxygen in local politics, and Chamber candidates in down-ballot races will have to navigate the awkward space of the optics of being associated with Dailey and the Chamber in their efforts to reap the financial and political benefits of the business owners.

While the power of unchallenged incumbency would typically be used to run up money and votes in other races, the Chamber fundamentally views Dailey as their “firewall” to reform-minded progressive elected officials and issues. It will become their top priority to defend Dailey once Dozier files. In the Chamber’s contemplation of their political position, it is telling that they view elected officials who were voted in with a majority of our community’s support as a raging inferno. 

Instead, we could argue that the well-informed people of Leon County are more resentful than they have ever been at the dysfunctional and ethically dubious establishment majority led by Mayor Dailey.

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