Earlier this week, WFSU Public Media hosted a candidate forum for the Leon County Commission At-Large Group 2 race between incumbent Commissioner Nick Maddox and challenger Josh Johnson. The forum was hosted by the League of Women Voters of Tallahassee, the Tallahassee Democrat, and WFSU Public Media.
The candidates were asked a series of questions in the hour-long forum from Tom Flanigan of WFSU, William Hatfield from the Tallahassee Democrat, and Danielle Irwin from the League of Women Voters of Tallahassee.
Below are a series of notable questions from the moderators and abbreviated responses from the candidates.__
Q: What is your opponent’s biggest liability?
A: Johnson stated that “the elephant is in the room” is an erosion of public trust “after headline making scandal, after headline making scandal, from unauthorized endorsements, those of the personal sort, I think that moving forward Leon County not only needs a commissioner they can trust, but they can trust will do a good job.”
A: Maddox said that Johnson’s biggest liability is his lack of experience and “his misunderstanding of what it means to work collaboratively with all people in our community.” Maddox also stated “I believe his views can be very polarizing without hearing what else is going on in the community.”__
Q: Related to the Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency’s vote on $20 million to Doak Campbell Stadium, what was your personal biggest takeaway from the experience or is there anything that you wish had been done differently?
A: Johnson contended that the vote was the most “divisive” issue in local politics in the last ten years and stated that he would’ve done everything differently. He attributed the vote squarely on Maddox who was the chair of the agency board.
A: Maddox noted that, yes, he was chair of the agency board at the time of the vote “but I was far from the only person” to vote in favor of the proposal. He stated that it’s understandable to be passionate about issues, but he would’ve liked to have seen a more “collegial conversation around it.”
Q: Are you comfortable with the amount of ethics oversight that currently exists checking on the Blueprint board?
A: Johnson said that he views “oversight needs to be more robust.” He said his reasoning for being supportive of more oversight is because they are managing taxpayer dollars.
A: Maddox stated that he views the current status of ethics oversight as being in a good place, but he is open to furthering the dialogue for more oversight.
Q: Was Amazon a good deal for the city? And as a dial-back expansion plan, how will you ensure they stand by their part of the deal that earned them $2.5 million in incentives?
A: Maddox said “Amazon was absolutely a great deal for our city,” Maddox said. He said he is excited for good-paying jobs, but also for Tallahassee workers for further their skills. But he added that “we can’t allow them to backpedal on their promises to us as a community.” Maddox also noted that public transit needs to have a route to the Amazon site at Mahan and I-10.
A: Johnson stated that he is also excited for the opportunity for Tallahassee workers, but added a caveat that there are indicators that the county “put the cart before the horse.” He stated that not already having public transit reach the Amazon site is “poor planning.”
Q: Who or what is your most prized endorsement?
A: Johnson said that he is most proud of his endorsement from a press conference of all women including Donna Cotterell, Debbie Lightsey, and Jack Porter.
A: Maddox said that all of his endorsements are prized, but likely the one he is most proud of is Congressman Al Lawson.
The full forum can be viewed on WFSU Public Media’s Facebook page here.