There is a seismic paradigm shift in electioneering underway here in Tallahassee. Paradigm shifts have occurred in the 1980s with the rise of an endorsing Leon County Democratic Party, in the 2000s with the ascension of professional political consultants, and now it is happening in 2022.
Whether one agrees with what is happening or not, this is as exciting to a retired campaign manager as a volcanic eruption at Yellowstone’s caldera would be to a volcanologist.
Here are the highlights of the changes to be followed by an opinion of what it means.
- City Commissioners Jeremy Matlow and Jack Porter are vigorously campaigning for Adner Marcelin against fellow Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox. County Commissioner Kristin Dozier is challenging Mayor John Dailey. The Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce crowd is after Matlow.
- Major sums of out of county and out of state contributions have arrived to support various candidates. The funds are being spent by political committees which openly report their contributors and expenditures and by committees that do not share that information with the public.
- The combined financial might of the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce, major developers, construction companies, and their interconnected social elites, are under serious pressure in their effort to keep a sympathetic majority of city commissioners.
- ·We have also seen in this race the growth of independent political action committees and self-funded media outlets. The role of these groups is to be the provocateur which allows the candidate they are supporting to pretend they are innocent of the character assassination attempted by these groups.
- Max Herrle is a new political force in town. He is a maestro playing the Cavaillé-Coll at Notre Dame d’Auteuil. In this case his fingers and feet are playing a concerto of existing and new political committees rather than one of the largest pipe organs in the world.
Herrle is a person of interest to me. He is shaking up the established order of electioneering here in town. He has run a couple of successful campaigns here in Tallahassee. He has created what I call a bastion from which he can now export a new way of campaigning here in town.
Herrle runs this entire operation from a single office. From there he can contact vendors to create mail, digital, and electronic campaign messages. He is a focal point which receives contributions and distributes services and operates an electioneering website to boot.
The interjection of hundreds of thousands of dollars from out of state and county interests is a new revelation to those who control the usual local network of political donors. This occurrence is overdue since we reside in the capital of the third largest state in the union.
The open or closed disclosure of these funds is not the question of the day. What is the question is the impact this will have on the traditional big money givers here? If the progressives, and their allies in the city, can find outside money to match the city’s institutional donors then there is a new ladder available for advancement into elected office.
The old traditional ladder will continue to exist but having a second competitive way to advance to the City Commission would be good for all of us. It may be uncomfortable for the Chamber of Commerce crowd, but it will offset the cost of expensive at-large city elections limiting the pool of candidates.
An out-of-the-box thought that would make big money nervous would be an expansion of the number of city commissioners, all elected from neighborhood-oriented single member districts. Perhaps that will be the next seismic shift.
Jon M. Ausman is the longest serving member of the Democratic National Committee in Florida’s history (December 1992 to January 2017). He can be reached at email@example.com or at 850-321-7799. As a disclaimer, he wants readers to know that in his yard are signs for John Dailey for Mayor, Dianne Williams-Cox for City Commissioner, and Jeremy Matlow for City Commissioner. “I have also donated to each of these three candidates,” he said. “All three have done a solid job on the commission and deserve re-election.”
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