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“We’ve got to win together,” Grow Tallahassee Running Williams-Cox Campaign, Seminole Boosters Fuel Re-Election

Twenty-Seven Million Dollars, Six members of the Florida State University Board of Trustees, One City Commissioner’s Re-election Campaign, at least $65,000 in political committee donations, and $560,000 in CRA dollars to the developer behind it all.
Demirel, who has been operating as Williams-Cox’s de facto campaign manager before the CRA meeting. | April 21st, 2022 Community Redevelopment Agency Meeting

City Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox said on a Facebook live candidate forum last week that she did not know who her largest donors are. 

Several weeks ago, Our Tallahassee began reporting on a developer in town, Bugra Demirel behind the “SoMo Walls” project, and his close affiliations with City Commissioner Diane Williams-Cox

We outlined the two overlapping government and political timelines that resulted in the developer receiving sign-off on $560,000 in CRA funds from City Commissioner Diane Williams-Cox. Just forty-four minutes after the meeting had concluded the developer’s 501c4 organization, Grow Tallahassee endorsed her re-election campaign. Since then, the developer has threatened legal action against Our Tallahassee for our coverage of his and Williams-Cox’s activities.

Today, we’re releasing screenshots that show Demirel is directly orchestrating Williams Cox’s re-election campaign, which our reporting shows is largely funded by the Florida State University Board of Trustees and Seminole Boosters. Their group has lashed out at critics of both their publicly financed development deal as well as critics of the Doak Campbell Stadium deal. Demirel is deeply leveraged on the land deal on South Monroe that just received sign-off on $560,000 in public subsidies. Williams-Cox publicly and privately advocated for the project.

Our reporting links tens of thousands of dollars in campaign donations hiding in plain sight both before and after the vote that was not discovered to be Seminole Boosters’ money until now. We outline the efforts to conceal payments by the Seminole Boosters, and their usage of Grow Tallahassee as a middleman to run a ghost campaign, propping up the Williams-Cox re-election campaign.

Bugra Demirel sent a screenshot to Our Tallahassee that shows his direct involvement in Dianne Williams-Cox’s campaign. The screenshot was intended to demonstrate that Jeff VanderMeer, one of the original co-founders of our Tallahassee did not support Our Tallahassee publisher Bob Lotane in the 2018 election.

Demirel’s screenshot shows that the person who took it is an administrator of Dianne Williams-Cox’s re-election page (demonstrated by the “boost this post for the re-election campaign of Dianne Williams Cox” in the screenshot) and that the person who took the screenshot is Demirel himself (zooming in, you can see Demirel’s Facebook photo). It follows what Our Tallahassee has been hearing for months: Demirel has been operating as Williams-Cox’s de facto campaign manager.

Our report follows the play-by-play in the days right before the Doak deal, to present time, of Demirel and the FSU Board of Trustee’s growing influence on Williams-Cox’s campaign, and the intersection of official government action, tens of thousands of dollars in campaign donations, and mail pieces, digital, and radio ads seemingly sent on behalf of Williams-Cox herself.

“Don’t Question” SoMo Walls

According to a city source speaking on condition of anonymity, city staff was specifically told not to question Demirel’s project because it was “a priority” of Commissioner Williams-Cox.  A review of Grow Tallahassee’s activity shows a trend in funding advertisements for Dianne Williams Cox’s campaign since the approval of $560,000 for Demirel’s project. Grow Tallahassee has financed more than seven separate Facebook advertisements which are included in the gallery below.

In September 2021, in the weeks after the guilty verdict of JT Burnette, one source told Our Tallahassee that Michael Alford was in talks with another Leon County resident to recruit them into the race against Jeremy Matlow.

On January 19th, 2022 Dianne Williams-Cox gives a 42-minute-long speech at Grow Tallahassee event at Happy Motoring. “What I want is for us to work together,” Williams-Cox told the group. “How you started, as a networking group, but you have become empowered,” Williams-Cox said, referencing the group’s status as both a 501c4 organization and a political action committee. We want you to become empowered,” Williams-Cox said. “We want you to be in power,” Williams-Cox said. “Help us shape the future,” Williams-Cox said. “That’s how we’re going to Grow Tallahassee,” the city commissioner said.

On January 26th, Jared Willis of Grow Tallahassee publishes his first op-ed of the cycle which said that criticizing a politician’s campaign donations was “a master class on political vanguardism.” Willis stated “there is a large online group spreading misinformation on social media, sowing dissent, and creating false perceptions in a fairly organized manner,” Willis alleged.

On February 10th, Williams-Cox received her first of many checks from senior leadership at the Seminole Boosters and FSU Board of Trustees. Recess Nightclub, a business owned by FSU Board of Trustee member Craig Mateer donated $1,000 to Dianne Williams-Cox. That same day,  Doug Mannheimer gave $500 to Dianne Williams-Cox, FSU Boosters’ Vice Chair Charlie Dudley gave $500, and Van Champion, who is the President of Childers’ Construction, a prolific Florida State construction vendor gave $1,000 to Williams-Cox.

On February 14th, Grow Tallahassee endorsed the Doak Campbell deal, stating in part “our Political Committee deeply condemns recent efforts to smear Florida State University and its athletic department,” the group said. “Organizing misinformation campaigns to label Florida State University as “greedy bottom feeders, preying on taxpayers for luxury stadium upgrades” is immoral, intellectually deceitful, and shameful,” the political committee said.

On February 14th, ten days before the Doak Campbell vote, Laura Coburn, a relative of Florida State University Vice President David Coburn gave $1,000 to Dianne Williams-Cox’s campaign. That same day, Jenifer Collins, a relative of the Chairman of the FSU Board of Trustees gave Dianne William-Cox $750.

On February 15th, Jessica Declue, a Jacksonville resident donated twice to Williams-Cox, giving $500 each time totaling $1,000. Declue is the executive assistant for Greenpointe Holdings, a land development company owned by Florida State University Board of Trustee member Ed Burr.

On February 16th, after Our Tallahassee’s reporting, the Leon County Democratic Party issued a statement asking for “all campaign donations to elected officials and voting members of the Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency” be returned because taking the money “undermines the interest of the public.” Williams-Cox also refused to return the donations, pointing to the leadership at the Seminole Boosters, FSU Foundation, Alumni Association, and Board of Trustees.

Later that day, Mayor Dailey accused the Democratic Party of voter suppression and refused to give the money back. Williams-Cox also refused to return the donations.

Grow Tallahassee Connected to Land Deal, Stadium.

On February 17th, Bugra Demirel donated $1,000 to Dianne Williams-Cox’s campaign.

On February 19th, Grow Tallahassee published an article with an attached image of Matlow scowling with text that read “WHY ANTI-FSU?” The article claimed that people — including Matlow — opposing Doak were engaging in “deceitful rhetoric” that was “designed to be misleading.” It alleged that City Commissioner Jack Porter and Matlow were “sowing division in our community.”

On February 20th, Commissioner Porter, the Leon County Democratic Party, the Tallahassee Branch of the NAACP and Say No 2 Doak, held a press conference opposing the stadium deal alongside Koch brothers funded, conservatives group Americans For Prosperity. Skip Foster, the publisher of For Tallahassee — who lobbied for the Doak deal on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce but never registered to lobby — classified their press conference derisively as “having the attendance of a Miami home game.”

On February 22nd, Jared Willis, of Grow Tallahassee, published his second op-ed in the Tallahassee Democrat “Booster donor attacks are undemocratic.” Willis referred to opponents as “political spin artists.” Willis wrote that criticizing the acceptance of campaign donations from the Seminole Boosters is meant to “divide our community for personal political gain.”

On February 24th, Williams-Cox cast the critical tie-breaking vote for the Doak Campbell Stadium. Dailey has called the Democratic Party’s request to not accept money from people, who are voting on “voter suppression.” Earlier in the day, Grow Tallahassee’s Jared Willis appears on WFSU’s Perspectives to argue in favor of the stadium deal, pitted against NAACP President Mutaqee Akbar and County Commissioner Kristin Dozier who both opposed the deal.

On February 24th, Demirel submitted a preliminary itemized list of public financing requests for his land on South Monroe, dubbed “SoMo walls.” A review of the professional summary shows that Conn, the president of Grow Tallahassee, was listed in a line item for $87,750 in the professional design fees. Corporate documents for Grow Tallahassee on Sunbiz show Conn, Demirel, and two others listed as officers of Grow Tallahassee – meaning half of the officers of Grow Tallahassee are involved in the SoMo Walls CRA land deal.

As of today, the project is a vacant block surrounded by construction fencing, adorned with the branding of the contractors working on the site. Visible from Google Maps are multiple Conn Architects banners on the fencing. Conn Architects is a family business of Gina Conn, whose dad, Michael Conn, founded the company. Demirel and Conn recently engaged.

On March 5th, Grow Tallahassee published an op-ed critical of Matlow, Porter, Brian Welch, and Our Tallahassee which claimed that criticisms of the Doak deal are “definitely not about making Tallahassee a better place for everyone. It’s about money, power, and control for a privileged few.” The article referred to local government reformers as “bad actors.” The group spent between $400-$499 on advertisements for the post on Facebook.

On March 7th, Demirel’s SoMo Walls Project goes in front of the CRA citizens advisory committee meeting for their consideration.

On March 14th, a Grow Tallahassee promotional video pitches the group’s values as “we must come together, we must be honest, factual, tolerant,” the video says to fast cuts of Tallahassee drone footage.

On March 17th, Grow Tallahassee uses Florida State’s Askew School of Public Administration & Policy to post an internship position for communications & governmental affairs intern: “An important component of this opportunity will include gaining experience in executing specific tasks to establish and nurture partnerships and collaboration with community leaders, business owners, and non-profit organizations on behalf of the Board of Directors to fulfill the organization’s public relations goals,” the posting says. Metadata from the Adobe Acrobat file lists Grow Tallahassee President Gina Conn as the author of the file.

On March 16th, John Thrasher donated $1,000 to Dianne Williams-Cox. Thrasher is the former President of Florida State University, a former Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, and now-lobbyist-again at the Southern Group, which Thrasher helped found years ago.

Thrasher’s term as president lasted until midway through the Doak deal negotiations. Thrasher recently endorsed David Bellamy in his campaign against Jeremy Matlow for City Commission Seat 3. FloridaPolitics.com, which counts the Southern Group as a long-term client ran a standalone article touting Thrasher’s endorsement. Grow Tallahassee was quick to share the news on Facebook, spending between $100-$199 on Facebook advertising promoting the Republican heavyweight and former President of FSU.

Also on March 16th, David Coburn, Mary Coburn, and Katherine Coburn each donated $1,000 to Williams-Cox (totaling $3000). David Coburn is the former Vice President of Florida State and was instrumental to the Doak deal and the primary ‘muscle’ representative from Florida State on the deal. Coburn penned an article from official Florida State communications channels, which criticized the public that was outspoken against the deal: “the investment in FSU, however, is under attack. The amount of misinformation that is being propagated is alarming, and everyone who supports FSU should be concerned,” Coburn said.

Also on March 16th, Pete Collins, the Chairman of the Board of Florida State University Board of Trustees donated $1,000 to William-Cox’s campaign.  That same day, Collins’ daughter, Jenifer Collins, donated an additional $250 to Williams-Cox.

On March 21st, Blueprint reconvenes for the first time since the February 24th Blueprint Meeting, with the only item on the agenda to consider making Blueprint’s Intergovernmental Management Committee operate under Florida Sunshine Law after public concerns were leveled that the Doak deal may have been coordinated out of the public eye.

Williams-Cox made a motion to adjourn the meeting two hours early after growing tired of City Commissioner Porter and Matlow’s questioning of the origins of decision-making for the billion-dollar sales tax agency. 

On March 23rd, Grow Tallahassee published an op-ed that depicted Matlow atop a pile of money and pizza boxes, which attempted to redefine wealthy land-owners and real estate firms as “those with the strongest investment in our community.” The group spent between $100-$199 on the advertisement.

 On April 12th, Kevin Graham, the executive director of the Florida State Real Estate Foundation donated $500 to Williams-Cox. The Tallahassee Democrat reported Graham “endorsed” Williams-Cox re-election campaign.

Before the Vote, Demirel was in place at the helm of the Williams-Cox Campaign.

On April 21st,  Demirel appeared before the CRA, asking and them to show intent that they are interested in undergrounding utility lines. He also asked the CRA to approve a modification to his contract because he’s since demolished the buildings the CRA funding was contingent upon repurposing. Nevertheless, Demirel claimed the project had not changed.

Initially, Mayor John Dailey was attempting to allow for the change to happen without public notice and an additional CRA meeting. However, after further discussion, Dailey decided to bring it back for a subsequent agenda item, which happened on June 25th.  

There was disagreement amongst Commissioners about whether the project would have to come back before a final vote. Dailey and Williams-Cox ended up advocating that it shouldn’t. The city attorney said that it should, and ended up swaying the Mayor. Here is William-Cox’s defense about the changes for Demirel:

On April 25th, the Ghazvini family gave Williams-Cox ten $1,000 checks totaling $10,000 five days after her vote for a Summerbrooke development agreement on the “Cawthon property,” at the City Commission meeting on April 21st. 

On May 26th, the Tallahassee Democrat published their 4TLH piece, where Demirel is quoted as saying “We are uncomfortable with the toxic populism being used by national political players, which has now spread into our local politics,” Demirel said. “Everything we’ll do will be public. We have nothing to hide,” Demirel said. “If we’re going to raise funds for the PAC, it will be announced. It will not be behind the scenes or in the dark,” Demirel told the Democrat’s, Karl Etters.

Williams-Cox Refused to Answer Criticisms of Campaign Financing

On June 8th, Commissioner Williams-Cox repeatedly declined to answer questions in public regarding her campaign contributors. She repeatedly said at the Tallahassee ALERT forum that she doesn’t have to answer regarding her contributors, and that she won’t defend her record or integrity.   

Adner Marcelin, who’s running against Williams-Cox, said she was accepting thousands in campaign contributions from the same developers that are getting no-bid land sales of public land from the City of Tallahassee. “I will respond to that because that’s not true,” Williams-Cox said

However, a review of Williams-Cox campaign donations shows it was true. Williams-Cox has received thousands in campaign donations just days after voting for the same developers multiple times, including receiving thousands from NAI Talcor less than a week after agreeing to enter into talks with the group to sell publicly owned land in Frenchtown that several Frenchtown neighborhood groups objected to.

“I gave my answer as to why I did what I did, and I’m sticking to that,” Williams-Cox said in response to a question about her support of the Doak Campbell stadium deal. In another round of questions about Doak, Williams-Cox said that it was offensive to ask about her support of the Doak deal due to the passing of former Commissioner Jimbo Jackson (she reiterated this defense at a subsequent debate). “Commissioner Jimbo Jackson made that motion, and we supported it, and, out of respect, out of just recently having lost him, I think we should keep that in mind,” Williams-Cox said.

When Marcelin again brought up her campaign finance history in the debate, and Williams-Cox said, despite being in the middle of a debate, “I don’t need to respond to that. I am not here to have a debate.”

On June 15th, The date of the Demirel/Williams-Cox Facebook campaign screenshot. Eight days before Demirel’s project was up for a vote.

On June 21st, Re-Elect Dianne Williams-Cox posts a Facebook advertisement touting her PBA endorsement that ran until June 25th. 

Left, the original Re-elect Dianne Williams-Cox campaign ad touting the PBA, posted before Williams-Cox approved the $560,000 deal for SoMo Walls. | Facebook
After the funding is approved for SoMo Walls, the land deals investor’s group endorses her and takes over paying for a similar ad. | Facebook

On June 25th, A day after being endorsed by the group, Williams-Cox quits running her advertisement promoting the PBA. A month later, Grow Tallahassee picks up where Williams-Cox left off, running a nearly identical advertisement from Grow Tallahassee. They spent between $200-$299 on the advertisement.

On June 29th, Grow Tallahassee holds a PAC fundraiser for their endorsed candidates at the Hotel Duval. Pictured at the event were David Bellamy, Bill Proctor, and Christian Caban, and several Florida State University executives, including Florida State Vice President Michael Alford, who tweeted: “So happy to support Tallahassee Development and the Ghazvini Family and @GrowTallahassee. Thank you for all you do for our community.” You can watch a video we’ve released of their entire fundraiser here

On July 2nd, the first of many Grow Tallahassee-funded pro-Dianne Williams-Cox advertisements began popping up on Facebook, like the below video, which was filmed and edited by Grow Tallahassee, and linked to Dianne Williams-Cox’s campaign website. Records obtained by Our Tallahassee show that the group paid between $300-399 for the advertisement for Dianne Williams-Cox.

 

On July 5th, David Coburn gave $3,000 to Grow Tallahassee. That same day Guy Spearman who lives in Cocoa Florida,  a prolific Seminole Booster gave $2,500 to Grow Tallahassee.

On July 5th, Golden Oak Land Group, a Ghazvini family company, donated $5,000 to Grow Tallahassee. The Ghazvini family gave Williams-Cox ten $1,000 checks totaling $10,000 four days after her vote for a Summerbrooke development agreement on the “Cawthon property.”

On July 7th, Grow Tallahassee posted another pro-Dianne Williams-Cox advertisement, this time spending between $500 and $599 on the advertisement.

On July 12th, FSU Board of Trustees Member Craig Mateer donated $25,000 to Grow Tallahassee.

On July 13th, FSU Board of Trustee Member Craig Mateer donated $1,000 to Dianne Williams-Cox through one of his companies The Standard, a nightclub on College Avenue.

Boosters, Board of Trustees Dump Thousands into Grow Tallahassee.

On July 14th, Our Tallahassee reported  on Grow Tallahassee’s, SoMo Wall’s, and Williams-Cox’s, government and political connections.

FSU has had a historically unprecedented entrance into local politics — specifically funding candidates who backed their deal, and hunting down the heretics who didn’t. This cycle, Florida State contributions will likely pass $150,000 by the August primary. 

On July 15th, Dianne Williams-Cox sent out mass texts in support of her campaign. Williams-Cox and her aide were in Orlando at the time for an annual Alpha Kappa Alpha Boule, an annual retreat of the sorority’s leadership.

That evening, Demirel has his first Twitter rant, which ended in him deleting his account. During that original rant, Our Tallahassee asked Demirel if he was sending out text messages on behalf of Williams Cox’s campaign, but he refused to answer.

On July 17th, Florida State University Board of Trustee member Ed Burr gave $1,000 to Dianne Williams-Cox through Greenpoint Developers, a company owned by Burr. 

On July 18th, Grow Tallahassee began taking over payments for canvassing that was previously paid by Dianne Williams-Cox’s campaign to Positive Chuck LLC. Her campaign finance records list the purpose as “canvassing” for a payment of $10,000. There have been five payments to Positive Chuck totaling $17,000. 

A recent campaign Facebook post by Dianne Williams-Cox’s campaign shows an eager group of people alongside the incumbent city commissioner. “We had a blast canvassing with our team of volunteers,” the post says. Grow Tallahassee lists the canvassing expenses as merely “advertising.”

On July 18th, Florida State University Board of Trustee Ed Burr donated $2,500 to David Bellamy’s political committee “Progress Matters” through his company Greenpointe Holdings.

On July 18th, Demirel published a Grow Tallahassee article that criticized our release of Williams-Cox’s 42-minute-long talk to their group and our associated reporting of his $560,000 land deal with the CRA, saying that it was “insinuating some sort of conspiracy between my business, Grow Tallahassee, and Commissioner Diane Williams-Cox”. 

Demirel referred to it as an “unethical smear campaign” and “lies and false accusations on Dianne Williams-Cox.” Demirel ran ads through Grow Tallahassee over the next week emphasizing that Commissioner Williams-Cox wasn’t being “bribed” for her support of the project through Grow Tallahassee and Demirel.

“We’re got to win together,” Williams-Cox says to Grow Tallahassee.

On July 20th, political mailers appearing at first glance to be from Dianne Williams-Cox’s campaign begin appearing in mailboxes. The disclaimer reads on them “Paid Electioneering Communication Paid for by Grow Tallahassee Political Committee.” Demirel is the Chairman of the Grow Tallahassee Political Committee. A look at the political disclaimer also lists a return address of 1307 South Monroe Street, the address of the SoMo Walls project. The graphics on the mail piece, closely match Dianne Williams-Cox’s re-election campaign graphics that were sent out on July 15th. The same colors, visual elements, and messaging are the same. 

 

Left, the original Re-elect Dianne Williams-Cox campaign ad touting the PBA, posted before Williams-Cox approved the $560,000 deal for SoMo Walls. | Facebook

At the meet and greet, Demirel addresses the crowd, stating We realized that while talking about it is just not enough, what we have to do. What we have to approach, uh, policy makers about these policies, where we would like to say, Hey, this is the policy that is good for Tallahassee, good for young professionals,” Demirel says.

“In the next couple of weeks, you will be, uh, seeing videos coming out of Grow Tallahassee. You’ll be probably receiving some mailers from Grow Tallahassee, and, and they all will say Grow Tallahassee paid for this messaging,” Demirel says to the crowd of developers and elected officials.

We need your help to make this happen. The Mayor already told you he’s running for re-election. I’m running for re-election,” Williams-Cox said. 

“We’ve got to win together, we’ve got to keep moving together, to keep our city strong. I just want to ask you, are you with us?” Williams-Cox asked the assembled crowd of developers. The answer came back in hoots and hollers.

On July 20th, FSU Board of Trustees Chairman Pete Collins donated $5,000 to Grow Tallahassee.

On July 21st, Grow Tallahassee posted another pro-Dianne Williams-Cox advertisement on Facebook, spending between $200 and $299.

On July 21st, Jennifer Collins, FSU Board of Trustee Chairman Pete Collins’ wife, donated $1,000 to Dianne Williams-Cox.

On July 22nd, FSU Board of Trustee Member Max Alvarez donated $5,000 through a Doral company, Sunshine State Gasoline Distributors to Grow Tallahassee. Alvarez gave a five-minute-long speech at the Trump 2020 Republican National Convention.

On July 22nd, FSU Board of Trustee Member Max Alvarez donated $5,000 through a Doral company, Sunshine State Gasoline Distributors to Grow Tallahassee. Alvarez gave a five-minute-long speech at the Trump 2020 Republican National Convention.

On July 23rd, Jeff VanderMeer published a piece on his blog “Welcome to Tallahassee: The War on Reform by the Chamber, 4Tallahassee, and Grow Tallahassee,” which incited Grow Tallahassee PAC Chairman Demirel to go on six-hour Twitter-rant the following day.

On July 24th, Demirel goes on his second Twitter rant, which we cataloged at GrowOurTallahassee.com before he deleted his Twitter account.

On July 25th, Grow Tallahassee sends out a mass e-mail to supporters “A Big Thank You!” the email reads. Included in the email are a multitude of photos from their July 20th event which shows City Commissioners Dianne Williams-Cox, Mayor John Dailey, City Commissioner Curtis Richardson, County Commissioner Bill Proctor, Nick Maddox, and candidates David Bellamy, and Christian Caban addressing the crowd.  

“Our political action committee is already making a difference,” the email reads, boasting of their mail pieces in support of Dianne Williams-Cox, Bill Proctor, and Christian Caban.  

“In the upcoming days, you will see more print and digital media advertisements to support our candidates,” it says. 

“As we continue to make a powerful impact in this election cycle, our success is noticed. Words like ‘Dark Money’ and ‘Special Interest’ are used to put a stain on our peaceful efforts to support our candidates,” the email ends, asking for readers to make a political contribution, emphasizing that they aren’t restrained to political campaign contribution limits. Around the same time, Florida Division of Elections records for the group’s PAC show $16,000 in expenditures through printing companies and USPS with the note “postage.”

On July 25th, Grow Tallahassee posts another Dianne Williams-Cox advertisement, matching key slogans of her official campaign, with identical graphics. Grow Tallahassee spent between $400-$499 on the advertisement.

On July 25th, Grow Tallahassee spent $2,000 on a radio buy backing Williams-Cox, documents obtained by Cumulus Media show. The signee on the documents is Demirel.

On July 26th, Grow Tallahassee posts another Facebook advertisement, reminding Republicans that they can vote in the upcoming August elections, including photos of their endorsed candidates John Dailey, David Bellamy, and Dianne Williams-Cox.

On July 28th, four more Ghazvini companies each donate $3,000 to Grow Tallahassee, donating $12,000 total to the political committee. Each list its address as 4708 Capital Circle Northwest.

On July 30th, several Grow Tallahassee-funded Dianne Williams-Cox Facebook ad campaigns popped up, reflecting the same graphic design work of Dianne Williams-Cox. The group tests two different text advertisements, on one advertisement they spent $700-$799, while on the other they spent $200-$299.

On August 1st, Jorge Gonzalez, an FSU Board of Trustee Member gave $1,000 to Grow Tallahassee.

On August 1st, Grow Tallahassee spent $7,985 buying radio ads that list Dianne Williams-Cox as the subject of the advertisement across three stations until the end of the election.

On August 2nd, Jared Willis of Grow Tallahassee published his third op-ed in the Tallahassee Democrat of the election cycle, stating “he’s too busy trying to tear down the so-called ‘establishment.”

On August 4th, John Thiel, an FSU Board of Trustee Member gave $1,000 to Grow Tallahassee.

On August 8th, paid canvassers through Positive Chuck distributed the below flyers to parked cars outside African American churches.

A Grow Tallahassee piece attacking Adner Marcelin. | August 2022.
A Grow Tallahassee piece promoting Dianne Williams-Cox. | August 2022.
A Grow Tallahassee piece promoting Dianne Williams-Cox. | August 2022.
A Grow Tallahassee piece attacking Adner Marcelin. | August 2022.

On August 5th, WFSU’s Margie Manzel publishes “Local political blogs are battling to rule Leon County’s fierce election cycle.” In it, Demirel says that Our Tallahassee is promoting “conspiracy theories.” Bryan Desloge, who lost in a 14-point rout to Brian Welch in the 2020 election, says he’s responsible for For Tallahassee, another 501c4 organization that promotes anti-reform-minded political messaging through their blog. Desloge says people need to “move on” from the Doak Campbell Stadium vote.

On August 8th, paid canvassers through Positive Chuck distributed the below flyers to parked cars outside African American churches.

The Grow Tallahassee slate of candidates, Dailey, Williams-Cox, Bellamy, | 2022 Grow Tallahassee Literature
The Grow Tallahassee slate of candidates, Dailey, Williams-Cox, Bellamy, | 2022 Grow Tallahassee Literature
The Grow Tallahassee slate of candidates, Dailey, Williams-Cox, Bellamy, | 2022 Grow Tallahassee Literature

On August 8th, Grow Tallahassee began running an ad on Facebook highlighting Porter’s criticisms of the $27,000,000 Doak Campbell stadium deal. The ad promoted a Tallahassee Reports article which is a right-leaning publication that has taken the defense of establishment candidates in the last few weeks. Grow Tallahassee promoted the piece, spending almost $1,000 to date.

On August 10th, Dianne Williams-Cox was asked in a candidate forum about who her campaign donors were. and whether or not she accepted money from the people behind the Doak Campbell deal.

“Are any of the donors people who are part of the Doak Campbell decision?” the moderator asked. 

“I will just, I’ll have to refer you to my treasurer, into my financial reporting, uh, because we all report.” Williams-Cox said.

“I do not know — I cannot sit here and tell you who, who my, uh, largest donors have been. But I do not discriminate on who can donate to my campaign,” the city commissioner said. 

“No matter how much anyone contributes to my campaign, it does not buy my decision. And anyone who knows me knows that.”

In August, a comment was made on a recent Re-elect Dianne Williams-Cox campaign Facebook advertisement from the page. 

A member of the public inquired critically, asking her to explain what they had heard through Our Tallahassee’s reporting regarding her relationship with the SoMo walls developer.

The official Facebook page of Dianne Williams-Cox’s re-election campaign responded, denying the allegations. 

“Mr. Pace this reporting is incorrect and inaccurate. I recommend you recheck previously recorded and televised CRA meetings,” the ‘Re-elect Dianne Williams-Cox Campaign’ Facebook page replied.

That page is the same page that Bugra Demirel, the SoMo walls developer had texted a screenshot that inadvertently revealed he was the administrator of. 

Demirel denies posting the comment. 

Demirel also denies Grow Tallahassee sent the anonymous text messages attacking Marcelin, Matlow and Porter.

Disclosure:  Lotane ran against Williams-Cox in the 2018 election. Herrle has contributed $250 to Williams-Cox in her 2018 campaign and chairs the recently made Say No 2 Doak political committee, which is supporting candidates who opposed the Doak deal and opposing candidates who supported it, including Dianne Williams-Cox. Both Lotane and Herrle supported Williams-Cox until she voted for the Northeast Gateway and the Welaunee land deal in December 2020.

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One Response

  1. What an indictment on 4tlh, bundled contributions, Seminole Boosters, candidates who file election complaints against their opponents, negative attack ads… This tack has capsized Mayor Dailey.

    Clear sailing ahead for Kristen Dozier as she will easily win in November. Not only did Dozier do the right thing and NOT vote for the $27 million giveaway she spearheaded the campaign to vote against it and stepped up.

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