Maddox faces large field of challengers for at-large seat

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook Staff Writer

After retaining his at-large seat four years ago without a challenger, Leon County Commissioner Nick Maddox finds himself in a race with five other candidates.

The five men who are looking to unseat Maddox are considered political newcomers with a variation of backgrounds. Each has been involved in community activism to some degree. They are Jon Liam Coulter, Rudy Ferguson, Benjamin Horbowy, Josh Johnson and Dominique Danielle Zumbo.

Ferguson and Johnson, both longtime observers of the Commission, have had the most aggressive campaigns  among the challengers. Both say they entered the race because they found this to be the right time to make a run for the at-large seat, which Maddox has held since 2010.

 The field vying for Maddox’s seat is as large as District 5, which also has six candidates seeking to replace Kristin Dozier, who is challenging Mayor John Dailey. 

County Commissioners Bill Proctor and Rick Minor, who represent districts 1 and 3, respectively, are also being challenged in the upcoming Aug. 23 primary.

Maddox, who recently publicly defended his vote to give FSU $27 million from the Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency, said he’s running on a record that’s filled with accomplishments. He expressed confidence, despite the large field of challengers.

“The process is made for people to participate in it. It’s good to see so many people that are willing to put themselves out there to serve,” said Maddox, vice chairman of the commission. “It’s a hard thing to run a campaign. It’s a hard thing to give your perspective and help people understand.”

Maddox mentioned a lengthy list of projects that he voted for, including establishing the women and minority program with the Office of Economic Vitality, the construction of Apalachee Regional Park and approval of funding to assist the redevelopment of Orange Avenue Apartments.

“Just to know that I was a part of the process to get those projects started, I’m happy to be a part of it,” he said. “This was a team effort to get this done.”

Ferguson, pastor at New Birth Tabernacle of Praise and chairman of the Tallahassee Police Department’s Citizens Advisory Council, said he is running because commissioners have not been keeping promises they made when they campaigned.

“The reason I’ve decided to run is because I’ve noticed commissioners who have sidetracked their original statements that they made to serve the people’s interest; the people’s needs rather than serve those who want more of the same,” said Ferguson. “I looked at that. I believe I serve the people’s interest and will always serve the people’s interest one way or the other.”

Ferguson said he believes Maddox has become “a career politician,” who has lost sight of serving people.

Ferguson, who grew up in Frenchtown and still lives in that community, said he wants to ensure that residents of his community get improved living conditions. People who live in the area want more than town hall meetings that don’t lead to action, he said.

“I feel like we’ve been chasing our tails and those who have the power and the executive authority to bring these things that we need to bear had sidestepped it,” he said. “I’m running to get elected so that I can do a service for the people.”

Johnson, a government and economics teacher at Godby High School and an adjunct professor at TCC, said two of the many areas that sparked his interest are environmental issues and affordable housing.

“These things are beginning to become crisis and I really think somebody has got to stand in the gap and mitigate those things,” Johnson said. 

While he admits to not being a single issues candidate, Johnson said his singular drive is “passion for people.”  

He added: “What has been done from this seat has not been people-centered or people-focused.”

Although it’s not clear if and when the candidates might face off in a debate, Maddox said he would like such a forum.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “This is the democratic process. This is what we do in America. We run for office so I’m just looking forward to put my views out there on the issues and hear what’s others views as well.”

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