Here’s a breakdown of both candidates for Mayor of Tallahassee

Study for tomorrow’s election instead of Business Calc

Election day is officially less than 24 hours away and if you’re like me, you’re frantically googling candidates’ positions and what each amendment on the ballot really entails. Ideally, everyone would do their research long before election day, but since this election is really putting the "midterm" in midterms szn, it’s understandable that it may have slipped your mind.

We all know by now that Tallahassee’s own Mayor Andrew Gillum is running against Ron DeSantis in the gubernatorial election, leaving a spot vacant for candidates John Dailey and Dustin Daniels to fill for the city.

Both are running on progressive platforms, which can make it tough for voters to choose who best reflects their values while in office; However, the candidates differ in experience, background, approach, and outside support. All of these factors matter and should be taken into as much consideration as the platforms either candidate has campaigned on.

We’ve streamlined the facts about both mayoral candidates and included detailed answers from a forum hosted by the FSU chapter of the National Organization for Women, which both candidates attended on Tuesday. The lowkey Q&A (held in Bellamy of all places) provided a closer look at the personalities of both Dailey and Daniels as well as their ability to address concerns for college-aged voters.

Dustin Daniels is best known as Mayor Gillum’s former chief of staff– No small accomplishment for someone who is still under 30. Age is a huge part of Daniels’ appeal to younger demographics, including more progressive-aligned liberals who feel that the current Democratic party isn’t representative of modern values. Daniels aligns himself strongly with Andrew Gillum’s campaign platform, with many of the same goals listed on his campaign site. He highlights the ramifications of being a post-Jim-Crow city that hasn’t fully focused on the reinvigoration of communities and their people in a manner that would decrease the economic segregation that has risen over the years. His website lists “Inequality, Innovation, and Crime” as the three staple areas in which he would focus on as mayor, and champions scholarship programs for free higher education, decriminalization of marijuana, and boosting the local film industry by partnering with the Florida State film school.

During the FSU N.O.W. Mayoral Forum, Daniels focused on his principles of investing in the people in our communities, promoting economic opportunity for people and especially those who have been incarcerated, and fostering better community relationships with law enforcement. He looked at ease, and spoke confidently while discussing his background as someone who grew up in a house full of women, from economic circumstances that are relatable to 14% of Floridians who fall below the poverty line. He reflects on his brush with the justice system at age 12, and the embarrassment he felt when his family used food stamps in the supermarket. These accounts are relatable and humanizing- an approach that deviates from what one typically ascribes to a politician.

John Dailey is a Tallahassee native who has worked in a variety of positions within municipal government, and has served as a Leon County Commissioner for twelve years. On his campaign page, he focuses heavily on issues facing women and children in Tallahassee, including topics like affordable childcare, gender-based wage disparity, and sexual violence. Dailey also highlights the plight of single motherhood and single-parent households that are often especially susceptible to poverty and lack of education. Dailey believes in combating this by strengthening the work force and increasing availability to resources, and in the creation of a Children’s Services Council (a platform he mentions multiple times on the ‘Issues’ page of his site) that could serve as a means of assistance for mental health, poverty, and bullying. On the topic of crime, Dailey is a proponent of increasing law enforcement presence in Tallahassee communities, as well as re-entry programs for people previously incarcerated. John Dailey also accepts his endorsement from local Republican groups, and says that it’s representative of building relationships with everyone in Tallahassee.

During Tuesday’s forum, Dailey highlighted his desire to improve the city with a holistic approach, as well as his various qualifications. Many of the questions that his opponent answered were subsequently met with a statement of “Agreed, well said!” by Dailey, instead of seizing opportunities to showcase his own take on important issues. While it is refreshing to have candidates on the same page of prominent issues, it seemed to exude a lack of earnestness on Dailey’s part to engage in the forum he was attending.

Wage disparity

Dailey heads the conversation on gender-based wage disparity by noting his track record on the issue, and cites a study showing that female Leon County employees actually out-earn their male counterparts. He plans to take this same kind of initiative to the Mayor's Office, where he will issue a wage disparity study and assess the problems as they come to light. He strongly believe that we have to lead by example at the capital city.

On issues of wage disparity, Daniels also insists the first thing he would do is “lead by example,” in publishing salaries of city employees and promoting a culture of transparency. He also believes in labor agreements with companies that require proof of wage parity before contracting, and that the city needs to be a leader in the forefront. When discussing affordable childcare in Tallahassee, a belief in promoting family friendly employers and subsidies for workplaces that include childcare may range into the idealistic– but certainly not impossible.

Sexual violence

When the discussion turned to more sensitive issues, such as how either candidate would tackle sexual violence in the city of Tallahassee, Daniels emphasized that if elected, he would be a leader that unequivocally believes reporters of sexual violence. As Student Body President during his time at FSU, Daniels worked on programs that addressed sexual violence on campus by training and educating students; Daniels emphasize that we would like to implement similar training and education on a much larger scale throughout the city, as he believes that it should be addressed as a community problem and not just within campuses.

Dailey approached this topic with his prior experience enacting internal policies to prevent workplace harassment or violence of any kind. He noted his partnership with FDLE to identify sex trafficking and domestic violence victims in field employees, so that a wide range of people could identify the warning signs and provide help or notify law enforcement of their suspicions. He notes that he would bring similar initiatives to the city if elected, and stated there must be a zero tolerance policy for any kind of impropriety.

Crisis Pregnancy Centers

Many of Daniels’ positions rely on Andrew Gillum winning his election. He used the phrase “And we will have a governor to back us up” multiple times through the night– most notably on issues of Crisis Pregnancy Centers, which he believes should be forced to disclose information about themselves and should not be protected by the Constitution the way Gov. Rick Scott has allowed. While his plan to create a city ordinance and his willingness go to court if necessary is admirable, it’s doesn’t address the need for expanding reproductive health and women’s clinics here in town.

This was an issue Dailey did not comment on, he simply agreed with Daniels.


Daniels strongly believes in subsidizing education in community colleges, vocational programs, and trade schools to promote a healthy workforce, and plans to reduce barriers that make access to education more difficult for many people in Tallahassee. He rejects the idea that this is a socialist program by nature, and focuses instead on local spending adjustments and “acting on our failures”.

Dailey counters this notion by pointing out the efforts made to reduce such barriers, but says Mayor Gillum did nothing to help them. He states that there has been a desire to “Move the needle” under Gillum, but it hasn’t been done. Dailey then goes on to suggest strong ordinances supporting women and minority owned businesses, and says we as a community need a stronger workforce.

Daniels calls this idea “laughable,” and cites Dailey’s record of voting against re-entry programs for previously incarcerated individuals. He admits that it’s fine to support these initiatives now, but says it’s unfair to suggest the opportunities have not been there.

Dailey’s last rebuttal comes by remarking that he understands the differences in functions of governments, and that he’s proud of his record of having re-entry programs during his 4 years in office.

Economic Segregation

Dailey uses this topic to address the need for innovation, and calls for community partnership with local and faith-based organizations. He emphasizes that putting people to work, drawing national attention, and providing new solutions, are key.

Daniels responded with the proposition that our communities should be looked at through the historical context that created a foundation for these economic issues. He believes strongly there has been a legacy of neglect in communities that have paid taxes, with no reinvestment into them. He promises to lead the conversation on historic inequality here in town, and make it his priority to listen to citizens who have previously felt unheard.

Dailey responded by stating that the Mayor’s Office (and subsequently Daniels as chief of staff) have heard this issue before, and chose to build student housing and hotels in areas (most notably Frenchtown) that could have benefited most from this kind of attention. He notes that as mayor, he will finally have a voice on these issues, and he will do what is right.

While it may be refreshing to see two progressive candidates vying for such an important seat, it’s become clear how sharply divided the Democratic party has become. The candidates differ greatly in approach, focus, and presence. Where Dustin Daniels eagerly and robustly answered the prompts, John Dailey often took a more nonchalant and subdued approach to his answers.

At times, Dailey did not provide a clear strategy to combat current issues, as opposed to Daniels, who seemed to have detailed objectives for every topic. Issues such as Crisis Pregnancy Center protections affect thousands of women annually, and Dailey’s mere agreement with his opponent instead of an individual response could be perceived as something just shy of apathy. Dailey only really showed energy during the forum when his record was called into question, or when he was criticizing Andrew Gillum– When it is likely that voters would prefer to see that energy reserved for issues directly affecting them and their communities instead.

The same energy that makes Dustin Daniels so likable and relatable for young voters could be what keeps him out of touch with what is feasible. Daniels represents exactly the kind of shift in the Democratic party many young people have been waiting for, but questions on whether or not Tallahassee is ready for such distinct and brusque change are loud and cannot be brushed aside.

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Florida State University