Steve Stewart and Scott Maddox are heading into a runoff in November. The two are vying for the hotly-contested City Commission One seat, being vacated by outgoing Commissioner Mark Mustian. The race has gotten even more contentious in the last few weeks with both candidates accusing the other of playing dirty.
At the center of the Tallahassee City Commission Seat One race are two things: money and politics. Steve Stewart is making his second bid for elected office, after narrowly losing to Mayor Jon Marks during the last mayoral race. Marks has recently been plagued by an ethics scandal over votes for contracts that favored companies he’s worked for, and Stewart has put the mayor’s ethics issues at the front and center of his campaign for the Tallahassee City Commission.
“I’m an issues candidate and I try to make sure the voters knew where I stood on major issues like ethics reform, citizen engagement and a plan to getting universities more involved in the economy I think for the most part we were able to do that but at the end of any election you have shenanigans," Stewart said. "So we’ll get through the primary and address that in the general.”
Stewart’s supporters have also tried to tie his main challenger, former city Mayor and Democratic Party Chairman Scott Maddox, to Marks. But Maddox rejects that association.
“I think Mr. Stewart wants to make this race about the mayor, but you know it doesn’t have anything to do with me. I wish he would talk about the issues and where I stand on issues. He had his race against the mayor in 2010 and he lost that race. This race today should be about where we’re talking Tallahassee.”
Maddox is no stranger to Tallahassee politics either, having been a former mayor himself as well as Democratic party Chairman. Stewart and Maddox have clashed in the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s primary. Maddox launched a slew of attack ads against Stewart over a mailer that implied that Stewart, a Republican, had been endorsed by Democratic Superintendent Jackie Pons. He also criticized Stewart for an underwriting spot on WFSU. But Stewart fired back, drawing attention to the former Mayor’s campaign contributors, many of which, are outside of Tallahassee. Maddox says he’s not apologizing for that support.
And one key feature of this race is the amount of money that has been poured into it. Daniel Parker, a former 2004 County Commission Candidate and city planning commissioner says he was outspent on the race by a ratio of three or four-to-one. And he spent about $30,000 dollars on his campaign:
“Money doesn’t win elections, but when you’re in a race with two pretty well-known candidates who’ve raised 2-3-4 times that amount of money, it’s just difficult to overcome that. I’m an idealist, that’s why I’m running, but I’m also a realist... one candidate with deep pockets is hard enough, having two is just pretty difficult.”
Maddox and Stewart were the big vote-getters at 40 and 33.5 percent respectively. Since neither got more than 50 percent of the vote they will face each other on the November general election ballot. Parker got about 10 percent of the vote, with newcomers Deltaire Hollinger at 4-percent, Eric Friall at 7 percent and Bob Fulford at 3.5 percent.