Dozier says it’s a non-issue. “This is shameful politics from a desperate politician.”
Mayor John Dailey has filed elections complaints against his re-election opponent, Kristin Dozier, claiming she got help from a “dark money campaign” that intended to mislead voters with an attack mailer.
Filed with the Florida Elections Commission Wednesday, the complaints target alleged electioneering coordination by Dozier’s campaign and a political action committee that isn’t registered with the state.
The mailers were sent by a group calling itself “Save Our City,” which is not registered with the Florida Department of State’s Division of Elections. A PAC with a similar sounding name, “Saving Our City PC,” is registered but doesn’t list any contributions or expenditures since it was created on July 12.
During a press conference in front of the Election Commission’s Gaines Street offices Wednesday, Dailey pointed to “shady and improper tactics.”
“Kristin Dozier’s campaign and at least one dark money political committee appear to have engaged in improper election activity in an attempt to influence your vote and put her in the mayor’s office,” Dailey told reporters.
The complaints, which have yet to be investigated, allege that Dozier and the PAC coordinated to hide their money trail.
“Either way, the effect was to prevent the public from being able to review their expenditures and support of the Dozier campaign and to prevent the public from knowing who is spending thousands of dollars to influence your vote,” Dailey continued after taking swipes at what he said was a pattern of unethical behavior by Dozier.
Dozier told the Tallahassee Democrat the mailers were done above board and “this is a non-issue. We are confident that the elections commission will see this as a political stunt, what it is. This is shameful politics from a desperate politician and an attempt to distract from his record.”
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Dailey on the attack
The complaint marks one of the first times Dailey has gone on the attack in the campaign in which Dozier left her Leon County Commission seat to run for the top elected job in the city. The two of them served together on the County Commission from 2010 until 2018, when Dailey was elected mayor.
Dozier’s mailers have focused on knocking off “career politicians,” focused on their own interests, “insider deals” and satisfying political donors.
The PAC mailer attacks Dailey for his support of a $27 million allocation by the Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency to fund repairs at Florida State University’s football stadium, political donations collected around the same time as the February vote and contributions from local developers.
It features photos taken at the same time, including the same people dressed in the same outfits, as the ones that appear on Dozier’s campaign mailers.
Coordination between PACs and candidates is allowed, but Dailey’s election attorney, Glenn Burhans, said the mailer also violated electioneering laws. Such communications are not subject to the $1,000 campaign contribution limit as long as they are made before a 30-day window before a primary election.
Burhans also serves on political committees funneling money into Tallahassee’s elections, including bundled, developer funding heavy, Progress Matters. He is also a registered agent of the Forward Florida PAC, paying the legal fees of former Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum who was indicted on federal elections charges in June. The PAC was initially set up and took donations to support Gillum’s campaign for governor.
He said the filing of the complaint against Dozier’s campaign came down to timing.
“The mailer hit mailboxes on July 15, and we wanted to make sure the reporting period was closed and we could check to see if the appropriate expenditure reports were made because obviously that would have complied with the law,” he said. “We saw that the legal disclosures were not made so we filed this complaint at the earliest possible time.”
Dozier contended they were made well before the deadline.
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Dailey said even if sloppiness is behind the name mix-up on the mailer, there is still an obligation to disclose to voters who is behind them.
“If it is a typo, what kind of calculated effort is that? Are you trying to mislead voters or are you just not up for the job and not able to handle the details of communicating properly?” he said. “I mean, the law is the law, and everyone should be held accountable.”
Dozier said political coordination is allowed and the mailers are nothing extraordinary and her opponent knows that.
“We have seen political committees work in a lot of races in this community” she said. “This is not unusual and for John Dailey to call that out as dark money is disappointing. He knows better, this is politics. Pure and simple.”
‘Ethical concerns’ and ‘shameful behavior’
Before discussing the elections complaints, Dailey painted a picture of Dozier of holding an unethical career not worthy of the office of mayor. He said “ethical concerns have swirled” around his opponent for years.
He specifically mentioned a house she bought from hotelier and businessman J.T. Burnette, a central figure in the FBI’s long-running corruption investigation in town, and what he said were official votes Dozier took that benefitted her family’s construction business, Mad Dog construction.
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Dailey said Dozier bought the house for $90,000 less than the listed price. He also did not specifically detail the votes he said were a conflict of interest.
Dozier said she has never voted to benefit her family’s business and she has recused herself when necessary.
In 2015, Dozier bought a house in Old Town from Burnette for $188,600. She said when she first looked at it a few months earlier, the house was listed for $199,900, an $11,400 difference, because of issues discovered during the inspection.
“If this is how she is running her campaign,” Dailey said, “we cannot afford to see how she would run the mayor’s office.”
Dozier said the house sale went through two realtors and was purchased at market value. She said she expected the scrutiny – in 2016 it became known the FBI was looking at corruption at City Hall involving Burnette – and media outlets including the Democrat wrote about the sale. She said the FBI never questioned her about the house.
But, until criticisms about Dailey’ leadership began to swirl in the past year, he never mentioned it either, she added.
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“There has been a quiet campaign he has pushed out there for months because he’s angry that I will run against him and he doesn’t want to talk about the real issues or his record,” she said. “This is shameful behavior and leaves many of us asking, ‘what happened to the John Dailey we knew?’”