Three candidates are vying to replace outgoing Tallahassee City Commissioner Andrew Gillum, who is running for mayor. Thursday two of the three hopefuls traded barbs before one of the city’s key political groups, the Tiger Bay Club, whose members are like a who's who of Tallahassee. It features local business, education, city and county leaders.
City Commission Seat Two candidates Diana Oropallo and Curtis Richardson pitched their reasons for why they should be elected to the seat. Oropallo is trying to paint Richardson as a career politician.
"From 2000 to 2006 you ran for the state House. In 2010 you ran for the state Senate. Now we’re in 2014, and you’re running for the Commission. Some you’ve won, and some you’ve lost. What advice would you give a newcomer like myself?" she asked in a loaded question aimed at Richardson's history of running for public office.
But Richardson defended his record and rebutted, "The advice I’d give you, Diana, is to not wait until you’re on the backside of your career to get involved in your community.”
Richardson then pushed Oropallo to explain why she switched from a school board race to the City Commission.
“I would ask Diana, why is it you were running on the school board for a year and allowed yourself to be coerced out of that race into the City Commission?" he said.
But Oropallo took issue with the wording.
"Coerced is a very strong word that has nothing to do with that decision," she said. "My decision to run for public office has been grounded in my desire to give back to the community with public service. As someone who is not a career politician who has never run before, I started looking at what is an open seat, and how can I give back to the community.”
Oropallo says she switched races after current school board member Forrest Van Camp decided to run for re-election. She describes herself as a political outsider and is currently spokeswoman for the Florida Association of District School Superintendents. Her boss is state Sen. Bill Montford (D-Tallahassee).
Richardson is a former state representative for Tallahassee who lost his 2010 Senate bid to Montford. The third candidate in the race, David "Bubba" Riddle, was absent from Thursday’s Tiger Bay Forum.