Complaint Filed Against Local Candidate for Photo Used in Mailer

By: Eyewitness News Email
By: Eyewitness News Email

Tallahassee, Florida- September 18, 2012

A complaint against a local candidate for office filed by his opponent has been tossed out. Tallahassee city commission candidate Scott Maddox filed the complaint against Steve Stewart last month, and now the Florida Elections Commission has ruled.
Steve Stewart sent out this mailer in August supporting the half penny sales tax for education funding.

It includes a picture of Stewart with Leon County Schools Superintendent Jackie Pons and a quote from Pons thanking Stewart for his support on the issue.

A Short time later, Scott Maddox filed a complaint against Stewart claiming the mailer was an unobtainable and illegal endorsement from Pons.

Earlier this month, the elections commission sent Maddox this letter stating it appears his complaint is "legally insufficient."

The letter goes on to say the mailer does not represent to voters that Mr. Pons supports or endorse Steve Stewart's candidacy.

We asked Maddox, who's a lawyer by trade, about the legally insufficient ruling.

Scott Maddox, Tallahassee City Commission Candidate: "Their opinion was because it didn't have the word endorsed on the piece, it didn't violate the law, but it certainly violates the spirit of the law."

Steve Stewart, Tallahassee City Commission Candidate: "Mr. Maddox, it's obvious to me, has no respect for the voters in this community and will say and do anything to get elected."

Stewart says he sent out the mailer on the half penny tax to show his support for what he says is an important community issue.

In heavily Democratic Leon County, Stewart who's a Republican, acknowledges using a picture with a popular Democrat like Pons might sway voters.

Stewart: "It's helpful, it's very helpful, okay."

Maddox: "He's trying to look Democratic by advertising on public radio and alleging an endorsement from Jackie Pons he doesn't have."

Stewart: "To run an ad two days before the election that says that I claimed an endorsement that I didn't have when the elections commission has now said that's not true, Scott Maddox ran a false ad."

Maddox had until the end of the day today to submit any additional information to keep his case with the elections commission moving forward.

He gave no indication he would. Pons says he's focused on his own re-election campaign and declined comment on this issue.

Tallahassee, Florida- August 9, 2012

Just days before Florida's primary, a local candidate filed a complaint today against one of his opponents.

Only Eyewitness News was there as Tallahassee City Commission candidate Scott Maddox submitted his complaint to the Florida Elections Commission against opponent Steve Stewart.

At issue is a mailer Stewart sent out showing a picture of him with Leon County Schools Superintendent Jackie Pons.There's also a quote from Pons praising Stewart's leadership for supporting an extention of the half penny sales tax to support education. Pons tells us the quote is accurate, but he didn't give Stewart permission to use a picture of him. He also says he's not endorsing any candidate in the race.

Says Scott Maddox, who filed the complaint against Stewart: "I just think that's wrong. I don't think that our public schools should be used as a political pawn. And I don't think that you ought to say that you have someone's endorsement or make it seem like you do when you don't."

"I didn't think twice about using a picture that I had personally taken and was on my Facebook for seven months," says Stewart in defending his mailer.
" Didn't think it was an issue other than a personal courtesy. I wasn't required to get his approval."

Maddox cites Florida statute stating it's against the law to claim a person or organization supports a candidate without written approval.

Stewart says the mailer is issue-oriented not an endorsement.

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