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Fierce race to be mayor of Tallahassee goes down to the wire

A man in a suit and tie and a woman with long hair sit behind microphones at a table, looking at each other. The banner behind them says "WFSU" and "NPR" and has a photo of a radio tower.
Lydell Rawls
Mayor John Dailey and three-term Leon County Commissioner Kristin Dozier face off in their final candidate forum of the 2022 election cycle.

The race for mayor is an exceptionally bitter one. It’s down to a run-off between Mayor John Dailey, who is up for re-election, and three-term Leon County Commissioner Kristin Dozier, his former colleague.

On Wednesday, Dailey and Dozier participated in their last candidate forum, sponsored by The League of Women Voters, the Tallahassee Democrat and WFSU.

While the moderators asked about gun violence, affordable housing and development, they also wanted to know why the race has been so negative.

“Kristin’s biggest challenge and her greatest weakness will definitely be her voting record and the questionable votes she has taken that have benefited her family business and herself, whether it’s the downtown Doubletree vote and the purchase of her house,” Dailey said.  

“We know -- all of us know -- that he retaliates against those who disagree with him” said Dozier. “This has a chilling effect on businesses, on nonprofits, on others. We are not getting the best information coming into City Hall. People are worried.”  

Dailey said his door is always open and his style is inclusive. Dozier said his charges about her voting record and her home are untrue, with the evidence on her website.

Lucy Sedgwick is the president and CEO of Ruth’s List Florida, an organization that describes itself as recruiting, training and electing pro-choice women. Sedgwick says the group has been aware of Dozier for some time. They started paying closer attention after she edged Dailey by 150 votes in the primary.

“The fact that she came away with a majority of the vote against an incumbent shows that voters are looking for something new and that they recognize how qualified she is,” Sedgwick said.  

County Commission Chair Bill Proctor served with both Dailey and Dozier, and he supports Dailey.

“I appreciated it when Florida A&M University came to our Blueprint and shared with us that their stadium was condemned and they didn’t know where to go, didn’t know what to do, that your vote was the deciding vote, and Bragg Stadium got some repairs,” Proctor said.  

The Bragg Stadium vote is part of the campaign’s greatest area of contention: a vote by the joint city-county Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency to spend $27 million on improvements to Florida State University’s Doak Campbell stadium. Dailey voted yes, Dozier no. Dailey says FAMU wouldn’t have had a football season without his support for a $10 million allocation for repairs to Bragg. Dozier said she fought for another way to pay for Bragg repairs.

“Thanks to her work as a public servant to restructure Innovation Park, FAMU has received more than $70 million for their research facilities,” said Sedgwick. “That’s crucial for voters and constituents and Tallahassee, because she has a proven track record of delivering results for voters.”

City Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox is just as committed to Dailey’s candidacy.

“Any accomplishments that I have made on the City Commission required at least three votes, and let me tell you, 99.9 percent of that, the mayor was one of those votes,” said Williams-Cox.

Dailey also has the backing of the Big Bend Police Benevolent Association, Capital Outlook, Grow Tallahassee, Equality Florida and the Board of Realtors, among others.

Dozier’s endorsements include the Tallahassee Professional Firefighters Union, the AFL-CIO Big Bend Chapter, the National Organization of Women Florida, the Democratic Environmental Caucus of Florida and the Florida Squeeze, among others.

City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow hasn’t endorsed in the race, but he donated $1,000 each in the primary and general elections to Dozier.

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.