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2012 Local Races To Watch

Early voting sign sits outside a precinct, guiding voters inside (2014).
Jessica Palombo
Steve Southerland (R) and Al Lawson (D)

Al Lawson vs. Steve Southerland – 2nd Congressional

The fate of several U.S. House seats will be decided tonight including one occupied by first term Republican Congressman Steve Southerland. Southerland, whose 2nd Congressional North Florida district spans from Panama City to Tallahassee, is a Tea Party favorite, and won his seat in 2010 by upsetting seven-term Blue Dog Democrat Congressman Allen Boyd of Monticello.

Now Southerland is being challenged by former state Senator Al Lawson, who has represented the area for almost decades in the Florida legislature.  Lawson narrowly lost challenge to Boyd in 2010, weakening the incumbent and setting up a Southerland win.

While Democrats outnumber Republicans in registration in the District, it is largely rural, and has a high number of seniors. Defense is a key industry in the region and it tends to vote Republican. Both the Democratic and Republican National Committee’s have put money into the race.

Politico listed the contest as one of its “Five Potential House Upsets.”

Scott Maddox (D) and Steve Stewart (R)

Scott Maddox vs. Steve Stewart- City Commission Seat One

The race for an open city commission seat has drawn in former Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic Party Chairman Scott Maddox, and local Republican and Tea Party favorite Steve Stewart.  It’s also, quite possibly, the most contentious race seen in Tallahassee this election cycle.

At the center of the Tallahassee City Commission Seat One race are two things: money and politics. Maddox and Stewart have taken plays straight from Washington, each accusing the other of elections violations, dirty-politics and even some physical threats.

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. Meanwhile, Maddox is seeking a return to public office, after losing the race for state Agriculture Commissioner to Adam Putnam.

Akin Akinyemi (left) and Mary Ann Lindley (right)

Akin Akinyemi vs. Mary Ann Lindley- County Commission At-Large, Group One

Former Tallahassee Democrat Editorial Page Editor Mary Ann Lindley announced she was retiring from Journalism last year to pursue a new career: Politics.

Lindley is challenging Incumbent County Commissioner Akin Akinyemi for the At-Large Group One Seat.

Akinyemi, a Tallahassee architect, and Lindley have clashed in the weeks leading up to the election. Lindley filed an ethics complaint against Akinyemi, claiming he failed to disclose a business loan, and Akinyemi has fired back against Lindley, claiming she failed to tell the complete truth about his voting record for sustainable energy projects while on the Commission

Akinyemi has been endorsed by more than 10 local professional organizations and advocacy groups.

Jackie Pons (D) and Sabrina M. Allen (NPA)

Jackie Pons vs. Sabrina M. Allen- Leon County School Superintendent

This election cycle hasn’t gone well for Florida’s school superintendents. More than half of the seats are up for election this year, with 11 races decided in the primaries. Unfortunately for the incumbents, most of them lost.

Leon County School Superintendent Jackie Pons is among those Superintendents facing an election challenge. Pons, a Democrat, is running against No Party Affiliation Candidate Sabrina M. Allen, a longtime English teacher.

This race has been marked by Pons’ refusal to debate Allen or even meet with her face-to-face. Allen has accused Pons of lying about his education and claims he’s not qualified for the job.

A Tallahassee Voices survey conducted a few months ago, listed Pons as the most popular local politician, with a 65 percent name recognition.

Barbara Hobbs and Josephina Tomayo

Barbara Hobbs vs. Josephina Tomayo – 2nd Circuit Judge Group Two

For Barbara Hobbs, the third time might be the charm. The Tallahassee lawyer has twice run for county judge and lost. But this time around, Hobbs started campaigning early and peppered the city with her signs. The effort may be paying off.

In the primary, Hobbs actually bested incumbent Judge Josephina Tomayo, but didn’t get past the threshold needed to win the race outright, forcing the two women into a run off.

After the primary loss, the state’s legal community came to Tomayo’s side. She’s been endorsed by Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, the Tallahassee Democrat and the Florida Bar.

Larry Campbell (D) and Lisa Sprague (NPA)

Larry Campbell vs. Lisa Sprague- Leon County Sheriff

An acerbic campaign where the two candidates won’t talk to one another. Sound familiar? It’s a running theme this election cycle for local candidates and even extends to the Sheriff’s race.

Larry Campbell has been Leon County Sheriff for more than 16 years. He’s now seeking a fifth term.

Campbell, a Democrat, beat back a challenge by perennial contender Tommy Mills after a long, and heated primary battle waged behind attack ads and questionable websites.

Now in the general election, he’s facing Lisa Sprague, a No Party Affiliated candidate who used to work for the Florida State Police Department and is now the owner of a security consulting firm.

But just like the primary, the attack ads, online posts and accusations against Campbell have resurfaced, leading to tension and animosity between the two candidates.  

Should Sprague win, she’d make history as Leon County’s first female Sheriff.

For more news updates, follow us on twitter @wfsumedia,  #wfsuvote

As elections results come in, this blog will continue to be updated.