Nine professional associations and advocacy groups are endorsing Leon County Commission Chairman Akin Akinyemi for reelection. Akinyemi accepts the endorsements at the same time he responds to reports that his own architecture business is in financial trouble.
The Tallahassee Professional Firefighters Association and Board of Realtors are the latest groups to join the seven endorsements Akinyemi received before the August primary election. On Wednesday, former Tallahassee Mayor Dot Inman-Johnson said she also supports the incumbent.
“He has been an outstanding elected official and has earned a second term in this community," she said.
After four years in office, Akinyemi faces a run-off against first-time candidate Mary Ann Lindley for one of the county’s at-large commission seats in November.
Lindley says, although she hasn’t received any official endorsements, they’re not something she puts a lot of stock in.
“Endorsements are interesting, but they are special groups that have special interests, and I’m more interested in appealing to a really broad range of citizens who live in this county from all walks of life," she said.
Lindley says she did interview with a couple of the nine groups endorsing Akinyemi, but doesn’t recall being contacted by most of them, including one snub that leaves her "flabbergasted." As a former political news reporter in a historically male-dominated field, she said, she expected to be endorsed by the political action committee of the National Organization for Women. But the former president of the women’s rights group’s Florida chapter, Linda Miklowitz, says she e-mailed Lindley an invitation to submit a survey.
"And," Miklowitz said, "she said she was so terribly busy walking the streets, putting up signs and all that, she didn’t know when she’d get around to filling it out. I took it as, she wasn’t interested in support from a women’s rights group.”
Also among Akinyemi’s supporters are gay rights group Equality Florida, the Police Benevolent Association, the Tallahassee Builders Association, Big Bend Federation of Labor and the Democratic Hispanic Caucus.
But, Lindley said, endorsements don’t tell the whole story.
“There’s probably more about Commissioner Akinyemi’s personal and professional financial irresponsibility that I think is important for tax payers to know," she said.
Akineymi and his architecture firm are being sued by Capital City Bank for defaulting on a nearly $43,000 loan. He was also sued this year by an engineering firm and ordered to pay $1,100. And the IRS issued a lien against him for unpaid income taxes.
But, Akinyemi said, business debt is something he’s dealt with before, and he’s confident he’ll be able to get back in the black again.
“Everybody that knows me knows that I’m very, very frugal. I stretch every dime, every penny that I have," he said. "But in this tough economy, everybody’s going through this. So I hope that everybody doesn’t jump to conclusions and judge based on this.”
And when it comes to voting in November, Akinyemi says, he hopes people will decide based on what he’s done for Leon County.
A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Linda Miklowitz as the current president of the National Organization for Women local chapter. She is in fact the past president and current treasurer of the group.