Reaching voters will be key in city, county commission runoff races

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer

Leon County will have a new at-large commissioner and the winner will come from a Nov. 3 runoff between Carolyn Cumming and Kelly Otte.

City Commission incumbent Curtis Richardson is involved in another runoff for Seat 2.

Both races could come down to who convinces voters with their message. The two seats also had the largest fields of the four municipal seats that were contested on the city and county commissions.

Now that the races are head-to-heard, no one seemed ready to change the tactics that brought them this far. The two seats are still being contested because neither of the frontrunners — Richardson and Cummings – got at least 51 percent of the votes.

Another municipal race that will be on the Nov. 3 ballot matches incumbent Bryan Desloge against Brian Welch for the County Commission seat 4.

Schack, who is making his second consecutive run for a commission seat, suggested that the primary outcome is a referendum on Richardson who is seeking his second full term.

“The people of Tallahassee have spoken very loud in this primary and they do want change,” Schack said. “I’m going to work really, really hard to earn the voters who voted for the other candidate.”

om the way he ran his campaign, which was mostly on social media, Schack said. Richardson, who by far was the biggest fundraiser with $57,820, ran a more conventional campaign.

Schack was second in fundraising in the field of five challengers to Richardson, bringing in $6,865.37. As of last Sunday, he had just over $1,000 left for the runoff.

“I’m going to continue to stay on that message that the city needs new leadership that’s willing to act,” he said. “Not just talk and make promises about what we’re going to do for parts of this city that has been ignored for decade. 

“We need some action. We need someone that’s going to bring a new voice that’s going to represent the people.”

Upending Richardson, who is the dean of the City Commission that saw Seat 1 flipped when Jack Porter eliminated incumbent Elaine Bryant, could take some doing. Richardson is a seasoned politician with enough cash left in his campaign kitty to be formidable in the next two months.

For as many candidates that were in the primary, Richardson said he isn’t surprised that he and Schack are in a runoff.

“I thought we ran a very good campaign,” Richardson said, expressing confident about winning in November. “I thought it might be difficult to avoid a runoff with so many people in the race.”

Richardson received 20,576 votes or 47.52 percent. Schack got 8,137 for 18.79 percent of the votes. 

As in the city commission Seat 2 race, having a large field of seven candidates bidding for the county at-large seat made it difficult for anyone to get more than 50 percent of the votes and avoid a runoff.  Cummings received 22,179 votes for 30.62 percent. That put her 7,286 votes ahead of Otte.

Cummings, a Tallahassee attorney, and Otte, a self-described advocate for change, ran distinctly different campaigns.  Cummings worked with the assistance of political consultant Chauncy Haynes, while Otte relied on a group of close associates.

Another major difference was in fund-raising. Cummings raised $76,523 going into the primary. Only Jeff Hendry raised more ($91,254), while Otte raise $39,195.01 and spent $22,305.54. Cumming spent $73, 969.01.

Neither candidate was sure of getting endorsements from the ones they eliminated. Cumming said she had reached out to a few after last week’s primary.

“We are going to do what we have done in the past and maybe do more of it,” Cumming said. “I don’t think our strategy is going to change; just try to reach the public and try to make sure the citizens understand our platform and our concern about the welfare of Leon County.

“I can’t see it differently because I still have the same focus, the same agenda, the same objective and the same goal to ultimately become Leon County Commissioner at-large.”

Cummings used much more radio and television ads than Otte, who at one point rode horses through two neighborhoods to reach voters. She will do the same during the next two months, Otte said.

She will continue with the same volunteer corps of mostly friends who said have been inspiring.

“We are not trying to figure each other out,” she said. “We’ve known each other for years and years. It’s fun.

“I’m super grateful that I’m still in it. We’ve been focused on the general (elections) since day one. I feel ready and energetic.

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