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Williams, Williams-Cox Spar Over Broken Promises, Lobbyist Donations In HD8 Race

Florida House of Representatives, Diane Williams-Cox

Incumbent State Representative Alan Williams is trying to win a final term in the Florida House, but his bid to keep the seat is turning increasingly bitter.

Dianne Williams-Cox left her $48,000 job at the Florida Department of Revenue early this year to run for House District Eight, which includes parts of Leon and Gadsden County. She has put $50,000 of her own money toward her campaign, and says she was encouraged to get into the race by the incumbent- Representative Alan Williams:

“In August [2013] he told me was running for a city commission seat, [that] he was not seeking reelection. Three other gentlemen got into the race, and they were friends of his," Williams-Cox says. "In November I asked him, ‘are you making your announcement before or after thanksgiving?’ and he said, ‘don’t wait on me, go ahead and do what you need to do, because those fellas were already out there'.”  

Williams-Cox filed her paperwork for the race January 15th, and Williams announced his plans to run for the seat that afternoon.

“It’s not my seat. The seat belongs to the people. I cannot in good faith tell someone not to run. That’s the great thing about this democracy," Williams says.

He says when Williams-Cox came to him for advice, he said it was her choice to make, and said he hadn’t decided whether to run for reelection. He says he believes she’s trying to gain sympathy votes.

“We have to focus on issues. That’s what I’m about. I’m not worried about who said what, that  ‘He-said-she-said’ stuff. I’m worried about what’s going to happen the first day of a new governor’s administration and what I can do as a representative to be an active part of that.” 

Credit Florida Federation for Children
This mailer for HD8 Candidate Dianne Williams-Cox is paid for by the Florida Federation for Children, an electioneering communication committee created by school choice lobbyist, John Kirtley.

Campaign finance reports show Williams has raised almost double the $73,000 Williams-Cox reports in her campaign account. But Williams-Cox is getting a boost from a major political player—the Tampa venture capitalist and school-choice lobbyist John Kirtley. He runs an electioneering campaign committee called the Florida Federation for Children which aims to get school-choice supporters elected.  

“I’m still an advocate for public schools. I still believe teachers should receive pay raises and those raises shouldn’t be based on test scores," says Williams-Cox."I don’t think schools should be graded or students to one-time test determining their future. But still, allowing parents—they should be allowed to decide how best to educate their children.” 

Williams-Cox says she’s proud of that support. Meanwhile, the Florida Education Association, the state teacher’s union, has given its money to Williams, in the form of a $500 donation.

“I’m proud to have the endorsement and support of the Florida Education Association, which represents teachers all over the state of Florida. I’m proud to have the support of the Florida Parent-Teacher Association," he says.

Williams’ list of campaign contributors reads like a who’s-who of state politics. From high-powered lobbyist Ron Book, to utility companies, insurance agents, lawyers, lobbying firms—even Walt Disney World and Walmart. He’s raised almost $154,000. Most of Williams-Cox's contributions are from individuals in Leon and Gadsden County.

Follow @HatterLynn

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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