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Bill Proctor wins re-election and says primary outcomes serve as notice to establishment Tallahassee

A Black man in a nicely cut blue suit stands outside the glistening halls and mahogany doors of Gov. Ron DeSantis' office in the state capitol building
Ryan Dailey
Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor speaks with media after delivering letters to Governor Ron DeSantis, asking for more flexibility for elections supervisors heading into the 2020 elections.

Proctor, who was re-elected to the Leon County Commission District 1 seat, says he’s never seen a local election quite like this one.

“The diversity we saw in the campaigns—Black candidates running, younger candidates running, women running…I’ve never seen as many different factions and constituencies represented, and it's really starting to look like Democracy," he said while standing outside his watch party at the Moon.

This election cycle has featured a doctor versus a business owner. A man and woman vying for mayor. Community activists, lawyers, preachers and medical professionals have all featured in local primaries. Proctor says the candidates this time around more fully represent Tallahassee and Leon County.

“We’ve never seen this kind of diversity before."

Proctor views this as a positive for Tallahassee and Leon County as a whole. While the primary results may not have completely broken the status quo in local politics, Proctor says establishment groups have been put on notice, that they need to put more seats at the table.

“There is an emerging force, and the clarity of that message in terms of what they do want, is not as clear as what it is not wanted. So I think, with a little sharpening of the message to focus on what they want and do want, versus what they don't want, is critically important."

Among those emerging forces is Josh Johnson who has forced incumbent County Commissioner Nick Maddox into a runoff for the County Commission at-large District 2 seat. Johnson was part of a group of candidates that loosely banded together with city commissioner Jeremy Matlow to push a progressive message to voters. Matlow resoundingly beat his business-backed challenger, Dr. David Bellamy. Johnson believes change is afoot.

“There are things at stake here that I deeply believe in and we’re going to fight on our record as well as our opponent’s," he said while standing outside Warhorse on Gaines, an establishment owned by Matlow.

As for his opponent’s record, Johnson believes Maddox was wrong to vote to expand the urban services boundary to include more of Welaunee, and he’s also taken issue with Maddox’s vote in favor to use Blueprint money for $27 million in upgrades to repairs at Florida State’s Doak Campbell Stadium.

Maddox remains the man to beat. He got 43% of the vote to Johnson’s 31%. Maddox stands by those votes and casts November as a pivotal choice on how the city grows.

“We have no choice but to look at what are the possibilities on how we house another 100,000 people over 20 years?" said Maddox. "Those who think we’re going to do it by not doing anything and continuing to do what we’re doing, are not being realistic about how we have to go about our business here in Leon County.”   

Maddox notes some of these local primary victories and upsets have come at a cost: while this may have been one of the more diverse local elections ever, it has also been the nastiest -- with accusations of racism, sexism, and examples of blatant homophobia being thrown on all sides, and with tight margins going into the general election season. It’s not likely to get better before November.

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. 

Find complete bio, contact info, and more stories here.