David Bellamy’s campaign is charting new lows for exactly what people hate most in politics: misleading personal attacks funded by special interests.
Tallahasseeans have doubtless noticed it. Angry mailers in red and black, yard signs aggressively littering our public rights-of-way placed by sketchy paid operatives, and a bitter Washington, D.C.-style television campaign featuring harsh personal broadsides.
Bellamy’s campaign has truly lost its way. Or perhaps it’s making good on the acrimonious threats the local Chamber made last year when a prominent conference attendee publicly called Matlow “evil” at the Amelia Island Ritz-Carlton — where the business lobby vowed to “cultivate candidates” and amass campaign resources to oust reformers like Jeremy at all costs.
Of course, I am biased — I work for Commissioner Matlow, having left a job in state politics to work alongside a promising local candidate of uncommon character back in 2018.
But there can be little question Bellamy’s slick new ads crowding Tallahassee’s mailboxes to call Matlow simply “bad for our community” veer into the arena of pure character assassination (think the Pons-Hannah race in 2016) more than any recognizable campaign appeal.
When I left the state political process, I thought my days of headaches involving special interests dominating the process, revolving-door lobbyists’ influence, and ideological extremists were over. But they seem to have followed me across Pensacola Street.
Bellamy has blown away records for maximum campaign donations for City Seat 3, emboldened by the state’s recent preemption of our local $250 limit. Adams Street politicos have availed themselves of the new opportunity for favor-peddling, bundling tens upon tens of thousands for the Matt Gaetz-supporting putative “Democrat.”
Bellamy is also getting the assistance of at least two 501(c)4 groups with ties to big developers, Bryan Desloge and Skip Foster’s “4TLH” — entirely focused on putrid anti-Matlow attacks — and pro-developer “Grow Tallahassee,” whose political committee is chiefly funded by Ron DeSantis political appointees. It all adds up to more than half a million dollars in cynical political spin.
Bellamy and his backers’ game plan is simple: though their guy is not particularly electable, if they pump enough big money into beating up Matlow over and over through paid media, perhaps they can get him over.
Many people around town are rightly asking themselves: why do these extremely wealthy and powerful interests want to muscle Bellamy’s way onto a relatively small municipal seat so badly?
I ask myself the same question, imagining a Tallahassee City Commission where this is the path to power. How would you cooperate with the community you’ve just run a scorched earth campaign across? What kind of mandate would you even have after running on zero new ideas or issues?
This is not the politics people in odd-numbered years say they want. It’s not what anyone in the public square says they believe in, yet here it is.
The politics of personal destruction funded by binge-spending lobbyists and taxpayer-subsidized developers getting political is not what local government is all about.
Tallahassee is better than that. Let’s make sure it shows on August 23.
Ryan Ray is a City Commission aide to Commissioner Jeremy Matlow. He previously served as Communications Director for the Florida Democratic Party’s House Victory, a Capitol Press Corps reporter with News Service of Florida and Florida Politics, and regional field director for Gwen Graham for Congress.