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Three challengers take on incumbent Leon County Commissioner Nick Maddox in candidate forum

Three people sit at a podium behind microphones. They are dressed in business clothes. One person is shown on a video screen.
Lydell Rawls
WFSU Public Media
Incumbent Nick Maddox attended the forum via video. His challengers are (from left) Rudolph Ferguson Sr., Josh Johnson, and Nikki Zumbo

Three candidates are looking to defeat incumbent Leon County Commissioner Nick Maddox in the At-Large Group 2 race. In a candidate forumhosted by WFSU, the Tallahassee Democrat and The League of
Women Voters of Tallahassee. The discussion
zeroed in on housing, gun violence and government accountability.

The candidates for the At-Large Group 2 seat are Maddox, now in his third term, and challengers Rudy Ferguson Sr., Josh Johnson and Nikki Zumbo.

To Maddox, the top issue in the county is poverty. To Ferguson, it’s public safety. Josh Johnson says it’s “making public investments an
equitable endeavor.” To Nikki Zumbo, it’s affordable housing. And they all say their number-one issue would affect all the others.

Nikki Zumbo pointed to skyrocketing housing costs, which she says discourage people from living in Leon County or moving here.

“In my experience in housing, we have a lot of cost-burdened renters that are unable to afford their homes as is," Zumbo said. "And their apartment leases are only going up. So the inflation within housing has become a dire concern."

Rudy Ferguson agrees with Zumbo and says affordable housing would lift up the community "where people can feel better about themselves, encourage themselves, and it uplifts the community, the properties adjacent to it," he said. "It gives people a sense of pride. It reduces crime and it reduces over-crowding. If we can get a handle on that and work along with all our community partners —and the SHIP (State Housing Initiatives Partnership) funds, encouraging and bringing incentives to
the table."

Maddox says one solution to gun violence is to bring more youth out of poverty and into opportunity.

"We have to change their minds, we have to create situations, we have to get them into Leon Works and other programs and tell them that ‘Hey, you can make $100,000 as a welder,
you don’t have to be on the street, you don’t have to live this kind of life where you risk your life every single day,’” Maddox said.

Josh Johnson agrees the county should connect at-risk young people with community resources, including law enforcement.

“If we have access to funds and resources in already-existing nonprofits and organizations that are doing this work, we have to engage
these entities to save these lives," Johnson said.

To watch the forum, go to wfsu.org.

Follow @MargieMenzel

Margie Menzel covers local and state government for WFSU News. She has also worked at the News Service of Florida and Gannett News Service. She earned her B.A. in history at Vanderbilt University and her M.S. in journalism at Florida A&M University.