In the greatest local stunner of election night, Chiles High School teacher Brian Welch unseated long-serving Leon County Commissioner Bryan Desloge, whose votes for Welaunee, mask requirements and curfews infuriated some residents and estranged others.
Welch, a first-time candidate, scored a significant upset win in the Leon County Commission District 4 race, Desloge had represented District 4 for 14 years and is serving as chairman of the commission this year.
“I’m not a politician so for me this is very foreign waters,” Welch told the Tallahassee Democrat. “All I want is what’s best for everybody in my community.”
As of the latest reports, Welch got 56.87% of the vote, and Desloge got 43.13%, according to the Leon County Supervisor of Elections office.
Welch said he was floored by the strong support he got and ready to advocate for change for the district.
Welch, a social studies teacher at Chiles, focused his campaign on representing residents of Northeast Tallahassee.
The county’s only Republican commissioner, Desloge hadn’t been tried on the ballot since he was first elected in 2006, when he defeated Will Messer to complete out the term of then-Commissioner Tony Grippa. He dominated that race by more than seven points.
“It’s been the honor of my life to serve for the last 14 years as your county commissioner here in Leon County. But all good things must come to an end. I’ve tried to serve the community well in what’s been a difficult year for all of us,” Desloge said at a news conference.
Welch said he had no paid campaign advisers — and his campaign finance reports are devoid of consultant payments outside of a single poll. However, he got advice and encouragement from some of the same people, including lobbyist Max Herrle, who helped get City Commissioners Jeremy Matlow and Jack Porter elected, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.
“I think people have spoken up … in a very strong way,” Welch said. “And we’re ready for something new.”
Carolyn Cummings, an attorney for more than 35 years, made her second bid for office in the span of nearly 30 years, and she won a decisive victory Tuesday in the Leon County Commission at-large race.
Cummings, an attorney, got into the race in March, later than any of the candidates, and seemed to catch a significant number of them off guard.
She won 54.8% of the vote Tuesday against her rival, Kelly Otte, who collected only 43.9% of the vote, as indicated by unofficial totals from the Leon County Supervisor of Elections office.
Cummings won 94 of the county’s 157 precincts, performing especially well on the south side, where she won everything except three of its 31 precincts. She additionally did well in the southwest and northwest, winning most of the precincts there. Otte, a longtime nonprofit administrator, won probably the biggest areas in the Northeast.
Cummings vowed to make pandemic recuperation her No. 1 priority, helping individuals who have lost jobs and businesses.
She spent her money on TV advertisements that were after starting her campaign with mailers.
Her commercials featured videos of well-known members of the community endorsing her, including City Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox and lawyer Dana Brooks.
“I just thank God for giving us the strength and the stamina to try and get our message out to the citizens of Leon County,” she said. “And hopefully they recognize that I’m serious about the issues, serious about the health, safety, welfare and well-being of all the citizens of Leon County,” Cummings said.